Connolly crushes Castlebar dream

GAA: All Ireland Club SFC Final ; St Vincent's 4-12 Castlebar Mitchels 2-11

So close yet so far: Tom Cunniffe consoles Castlebar Mitchels captain Donal Newcombe after the full time whistle. Photo: Sportsfile

So close yet so far: Tom Cunniffe consoles Castlebar Mitchels captain Donal Newcombe after the full time whistle. Photo: Sportsfile

When 42 minutes into the contest Danny Kirby reacted quickest to a Neil Douglas shot coming back off the post and he drove the ball past Michael Savage from close range, Castlebar Mitchels believed it was going to be their day in Croke Park. Kirby's goal put his side into a 1-11 to 2-7 lead and looked to have Vincent's rattled. But less than a minute later, the Dublin side won a free out on the Cusack Stand side of the field. Tomas Quinn was making his way over to have a crack at the posts, but his team-mate Tiernan Diamond decided to launch a quick one into the the Mitchels penalty area the ball bounced and evaded the grasp of Ciarán Dorney, but unfortunately for Castlebar, Diarmuid Connolly was following in behind and was able to palm the ball past the reach of Ciaran Naughton in the Mitchels goal, to put Vincent's back in front and take the wind out of the Mitchels sails. It wasn't the knock-out punch, but it was the one that left Castlebar unsteady on their feet and needing the end of the round to come quickly for them to recover, but it never came and the Marino team and Connolly in particular kept piling on the blows over the next ten minutes. Over that period Connolly kicked another 1-3, which went unanswered by the Mitchels. The Dublin stars second goal saw him run through the heart of the Mitchels defence, get dispossessed yet he was still able to flick the ball back up into his hands with his right boot and in a continuous movement drop the ball to his left boot and fire it past Ciaran Naughton. That was the knock out blow and it was plain sailing for Vincent's from then on to the final whistle even if Danny Kirby did manage to get a second goal for Castlebar just before the end to close the gap a bit.

The were the underdog's but Castlebar believed that they had what it took to get the job done in Croke Park. Their task was made an even tougher one at the start of the game when the man described by Pat Holmes after the game as their “spiritual leader,” Richie Feeney was given a black card for a late challenge on Vincent's corner back Kevin Bonnie out under the Cusack Stand. The game was level at 0-1 each at that stage and Castlebar were looking the better team as they did for most of the first half. Vincent's Shane Carthy put kicked his side into an early lead after only 30 seconds, Patrick Durcan responded for the Mitchels with a fine point. The 19-year-old Castlebar wing backs growing reputation as a star in in the making will only have grown after another top class display in Croke Park on Monday. Connolly kicked his side back into the lead not long after Feeney left the action, but before Connolly's point there were warning signs that Mitchels didn't pay heed of with Ciaran Naughton forced into the first of a number of top class saves he made over the afternoon from a Connolly goal-bound effort. Tom King leveled the game up with a free eight minutes in, but the Dublin side went straight back down the field and grabbed their first goal of the day. Connolly took on Eoghan O'Reilly and drove past him. Michael Concarr was breaking on his shoulder and Connolly played him in and the wing-back burnt Neil Douglas for pace before smashing the ball past Naughton.

But Mitchels didn't crumble and they scored six points without reply over the next 17 minutes, they did have to thank Naughton for two fine saves over those 17 minutes also. Scores from Aidan Walsh, a brace of points from the outstanding Neil Lydon, Neil Douglas, Fergal Durcan and Patrick Durcan had Mitchels leading by 0-8 to 1-2 and looking very good indeed. However good Naughton was over the hour, there was only so much he could keep out and five minutes before the break the Mitchels defensive dam broke for a second time. Concarr and Ruairí Trainor combined to down the Hogan Stand side of the field and the wing back shifted the ball across to Connolly who took the unselfish option and moved it on to full forward Ciarán Dorney who palmed the ball to the net from close range and leveled the contest up once again. Not long after Danny Kirby was denied a goal when Savage pulled off a top class save in the Vincent's goal and Trainor kicked his team into the lead a minute later. Castlebar went in level at half-time thanks to Barry Moran pointing not long before the whistle after he fetched the ball well from the air and shot on the turn.

Castlebar hit the front straight after the break when Alan Feeney broke from his own D to the Vincent's D before winning a free which was converted by Tom King. Vincent's hit back two minutes later through a Shane Carthy point and kicked three more scores over the next five minutes to push into a two point lead as the game reached it's final 20 minutes. When Kirby found the back of the net, it looked like it was going to be Mitchels who pushed on to the end, but unfortunately for the county town men, it was the local lads who went up through the gears and ran home deserved winners, with Diarmuid Connolly the star of the show.

It wasn't to be for Castlebar, but it's been some adventure and with a side full of young ever improving players, they have every chance of getting back here again in the near future and this experience will only do them good, once they get over the hurt.

Scorers

St Vincent's: D Connolly 2-5, S Carthy 0-3, M Concarr 1-0, C Dorney 1-0, T Quinn 0-2 (1f ), R Trainor 0-1, K Golden 0-1 (1f )

Castlebar Mitchels: D Kirby 2-0, N Lydon 0-3, P Durcan 0-2, T King 0-2 (1f ), A Walsh 0-1, N Douglas 0-1, F Durcan 0-1, B Moran 0-1

Castlebar Mitchels: C Naughton; A Feeney, E O'Reilly, R O'Malley; D Newcombe, T Cunniffe, P Durcan; G McDonagh, B Moran; N Lydon, A Walsh, R Feeney; D Kirby, N Douglas, T King. Subs: F Durcan for R Feeney (6 - black , J Durcan for N Douglas (50 ), D Joyce for E O'Malley (56 ), S Hopkins for G McDonagh (59 ), K Filan for F Durcan (62 ).

St Vincent's: M Savage; K Bonnie, J Curley, H Gill; G Brennan, B Egan, M Concarr; D Murphy, E Fennell; G Burke, D Connolly, S Carthy; R Trainor, C Dorney, T Quinn. Subs: T Diamond for G Burke (36 ), C Diamond for E Fennell (43 ), K Golden for R Trainor (51 ), A Baxter for C Dorney (58 ), N Mullins for S Carthy (61 ).

Referee: E Kinsella (Laois )

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