Mitchels move closer to immortality

Ready for glory: Tom King and Cian Costello celebrate after Casltbar Mitchels booked their place in the All Ireland final. Photo:Sportsfie

Ready for glory: Tom King and Cian Costello celebrate after Casltbar Mitchels booked their place in the All Ireland final. Photo:Sportsfie

GAA

March 17 may already come with St Patrick’s Day marked on the diary, but for Castlebar Mitchels players and supporters there is only one thing that matters about that date and that is the All Ireland Senior Club Championship Football Final. The Mitchels booked their place in the club showpiece occasion with a top class display against Dr Crokes in Portlaoise last Saturday and they are not going to rest on their laurels until they seal the deal in three weeks time.

Richie Feeney, who has been involved in two All Ireland finals with Mayo over the past two years, isn’t going to let another slip through his fingers, but he knows there is a lot of work still to be done. “It’s a dream come true really, but we know we’re only half-way there. There’s no point in getting to an All Ireland final and not winning it. We’re one step closer, we’ll sit down and look at it, train hard for the next few weeks, and be ready for Croker.”

Feeney went into the game carrying a injury and was taken off before the end, but not before giving his all for his side, and his manager Pat Holmes was full of praise for him after the game. “He was magnificent to be out on the pitch today and he gave everything he had.”

Despite winning a third game on the trot as outsiders, the Mitchels manager wasn’t getting carried away with the win and will be working his team hard over the next few weeks. “No more than the St Brigid’s game I thought it was a great game, but we made an awful lot of mistakes out there today and we have an awful lot to work on. You can’t fault the lads for their work rate and desire, when they made a mistake they tried to make up for it and they kept working for each other.”

Conditioning is key

When the game was in the melting pot late on Mitchels put the foot down and rammed home their advantage emphatically and they were ready to keep going, according to Castlebar attacker Aidan Walsh: “We’ve had a system in place all year and we’ve trusted it in each game and we did it again on the field and it worked. You could see at the end there we drove on, we could have gone another 20 minutes if needed. We were ready for extra time if it came, whatever the hurdle we hopped over it.” Feeney agreed with his team-mate that his side’s conditioning was a big factor in their semi-final win: “I think we might have had a bit of an edge over them in the fitness at the end and we seemed to come strong and push on in the end and ran through them.”

The Christmas break gave Walsh time to get himself over a couple of knocks and ready for the game: “It’s hard to make this team, at the start of the year it was tough and through. The Christmas break probably helped me and let me get over a few niggles and get right and put a bit more into the legs.” There was a lot of planning and preparation put in ahead of the game according to Walsh and it paid off for his side at the end of the day: “The game was so fast the tempo was at 100 miles an hour, they were a good team, but we were well prepared for them and knew what was coming at us.”

Mitchels’ planning extended to having a pool session ready for the team the day after the game, that’s the detail they have put into this assault on the All Ireland title according to the former Mayo minor captain: “We’re back in the pool tomorrow (last Sunday ), all that stuff has been arranged and we’ll take it day by day from there on now and get ourselves ready for the final.”

Walsh went on to praise the number of Mitchels supporters who turned out in the midlands venue to cheer on the team, saying: “Since the day against Corofin it’s been great, I think that was a real changer and the people came out and we had a big support, we might not have had the fans all year up to that, but there was an extra bunch of them there against Corofin that day and they’ve gone from strength to strength since then. Even the town is full of colour and there’s a great buzz about the place.”

Lots still to be done

Getting back to the football, Pat Holmes knows there is plenty more for him and his backroom team to work on over the next few weeks. “They were superb, made plenty of mistakes as happens, but they worked their socks off to make up for those.” His positioning of Barry Moran at full-forward paid off in spades against the Kerry champions, but Moran isn’t his only big tactical option, he admitted. “We’ve a team that we like to think is interchangeable and guys can play in a lot of different positions and that’s the way modern Gaelic football is. We accommodated Barry at full forward and we had Danny Kirby in there for a bit as well.”

An All Ireland final is always a special occasion, but Holmes said that he will be getting his players to treat it like any other game on the day and worry about the occasion after it. “At the end of the day, it’s just another game of football and we’ll go out and look to play our game and put in a performance that will win the game on the day.”

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