It's not to often that you see a team come out for the second half of a game in different coloured jerseys from the ones the started the contest in, but that's what happened in MacHale Park on Sunday afternoon. Both Castlebar Mitchels and Garrymore were allowed to start the county semi-final in their home red jerseys, despite the only defining difference between the strips, being the yellow piping on the county towns shirts.
It was confusing for spectators and for players a like in the first 30 minutes as the two teams went at in it what was an entertaining enough encounter. The change to white seemed to work the trick for Mitchels early in the second half as they hit four unanswered points inside the first nine minutes of the half to go into a 0-10 to 0-3 lead. Garrymore responded with two points on the bounce from the very impressive Martin Moloney to cut the gap back to five, but with 42 minutes on the clock, it looked like Castlebar had delivered the knock out blow. Richie Feeney showed great anticipation to just get to a punt in from Neil Lydon and fist the ball over the advancing Morvyen Connolly in the Garrymore goal and put his side eight points clear. But Garrymore had other ideas and the game ended up on a knife edge at the final whistle.
The game started off with Castlebar racing into an early 0-3 to 0-0 lead, with Cian Costello, Barry Moran and Richie Feeney getting the scoreboard moving early on. Danny Kirby had a great chance to land the first goal of the day, but Connolly pulled off a smart save in the Garrymore goal after four minutes. The game would go from the third to 21st minute without another score being added to the board, when it finally came, it was from a 45 from the boot of Neil Douglas. Moments before that point Neil Lydon had the chance of finding the back of the net after being set up by Richie Feeney, but Connolly once again showed his qualities keeping the ball out. Garrymore finally got in on the action two minutes before the break, when Moloney charged down the field and fisted the ball over the bar to get his side motoring. That was quickly responded to by a Neil Douglas score after Danny Kirby had done the donkey work in the build up. On the 30 minute mark, Castlebar goalkeeper Ciaran Naughton showed that he was on his game after he pulled off a great save from Jimmy Killeen who had broke at pace from the half-way line. The resulting 45 was quickly taken and worked by to Shane Nally who drove the ball over the bar from well out the field. Garrymore wing-back Darragh Henry got in on the action before the median whistle and closed the gap to three points at the break.
Mitchels re-emergence after the break in white jerseys, was greeted by a roar from the crowd, who could at least now be 100 per cent sure which team had the ball. Donal Newcombe kicked off the half with a neat point and he was quickly followed by scores from Moran (twice ) and Feeney and Mitchels were motoring well. Feeney's goal looked to have them on the home straight, but the check engine light came on shortly after. Jimmy Killeen kicked a free from a point in the 47th minute and one minute later, Garrymore were handed the lifeline they needed. Sub Trevor Nally was trying to bury his way towards the goal and was judged to have been hauled down by the Mitchels defence and Garrymore had a spot kick. Killeen stepped up and drove it low to the left corner sending Naughton the wrong way in the process. It was game on and Garrymore stepped up their efforts. Mark Tierney cut the gap back to three, just after the penalty and four minutes later the gap was only two after Caoilean Crowe pointed after he was played in by Shane Nally. The wind was with the south Mayo men, but their shooting boots were fitting just right as they reeled off a couple of poor wides.
Castlebar needed to steady themselves and Patrick Durcan was just the man to do that. The flying wing-back made his was down the MacHale Road side of the ground and drove over a great score, sub Stephen Keane added on another, before the experienced Neil Lydon pushed the gap back out to five points. Garrymore weren't done though and Enda Varley hit back with a point, before Durkan kicked his second of the day. Garrymore badly needed a goal as the game seeped into extra-time, but the goal wasn't coming. They did manage to add on two more points before the end from Michael Connolly and David Dolan. But even when they were given the chance to drop the ball into the danger area at the death, the football gods were against them as the managed to pass the ball from a free to a man who was to close to the free-taker and the decision was reversed.
It wasn't vintage from the county champions, but getting back to the final was all that mattered to them. They've three weeks now to get their house in order, and going on what they saw in the second semi-final that followed their game, they know they'll have to up their game quite a bit over the next few weeks.
Castlebar Mitchels: R Feeney (1-2 ), B Moran (0-2 ), N Douglas (0-2, 1 45' ), J Durcan (0-2 ), D Newcombe (0-1 ), D Kirby (0-1 ), N Lydon (0-1 ), C Costello (0-1 )
Garrymore: J Killeen (1-1, 1pen, 1f ), M Maloney (0-3 ), D Henry (0-1 ), S Nally (0-1 ), C Crowe (0-1 ), E Varley (0-1 ), M Tierney (0-1 ), D Dolan (0-1 ), M Connolly (0-1 )
Castlebar Mitchels: C Naughton; R Burke, A Feeney, D Newcombe; R O'Malley, T Cunniffe, P Durcan; B Moran, D Kirby; N Lydon, R Feeney, F Durkan; C Costello, A Walsh, N Douglas. Subs: J Durcan for C Costello, E O'Reilly for F Durkan, S Keane for R O'Malley, S Conlon for A Walsh
Garrymore: M Connolly; J Varley, C Cunningham, A Cummins; D Henry, A O'Reilly, M Maloney; S Nally, D Dolan; J Killeen, C Crowe, B Cunningham; M Fallon, E Varley, M Tierney. Subs: T Nally for M Fallon, J King for A Cummins, M Connolly for B Cunningham, B Lynskey for M Tierney,
Ref: Liam Devanney (Ballina )