If they had lost it, they would really have no-one else to blame but themselves, but come crunch time Castlebar Mitchels centre-half-forward Adam Murphy had the wherewithal to do what so many of his team-mates had failed to do before that and put the ball between the posts deep into injury time on Sunday. Mitchels were by far the better team on the day, but they left the backdoor open with their wayward shooting and Achill found themselves in with a chance of lifting the McDonnell cup against the odds at the end.
Castlebar couldn't have got off to a better start, Shane Dolan pointed from play inside the opening 15 seconds and from the resulting kick-out, they won the ball back and Kevin Costello's shot for a point dropped short. Sean Cafferkey in the Achill goal should have claimed the ball easily, but he spilt it from his grasp and David Stenson was lurking close by and made no mistake in punishing Cafferkey's mishap from close range to put his team into a 1-1 to 0-0 lead with not even a minute on the clock.
Achill did respond in some style, three minutes later Michael D McNamara picked up the ball in midfield and was let run right at the heart of the Mitchels defence without a finger being laid on him. The Achill midfielder steadied himself and drove the ball past Niall Feeney in the Mitchels goal and it was game on, we hoped.
Instead, Castlebar took control of the game and reeled off six points without reply with Kevin Filan kicking three frees, Dolan getting his second score and Kevin Costello finishing from close range to put Mitchels 1-7 to 1-0 up with the half almost up. Achill needed a stroke of luck to leave themselves in the game after the break and four minutes into injury time that's exactly what the got when Michael Dara Sweeney's shot which looked to be going wide, crashed off the shin of Alan Flynn and into the back of his own net. That goal left only four points between the teams at the break and it was back to being all to play for.
Filan kicked his fourth point of the game two minutes into the second half to extend Mitchels lead, but Achill were just about to hit their purple patch. Pee Sweeney sold a nice dummy and planted the ball over the bar for his teams first point, he followed that up two minutes later with a free from out the park. Then with 42 minutes gone, sub Denis McNamara ghosted in behind the Mitchels rearguard and was picked out with a pin-point pass. He calmly slotted the ball to the back of the net and it was all square. Both sides missed a few chances each over the next ten minutes and when Jonathan Fadian pointed after a well worked move, it looked like it could be Achill's day against the odds.
Castlebar continued to dominate possession, but wasted it when the chance to score arose. The did also have what looked like two legitimate penalty claims turned down in the second half. Paul Fitzmaurice pulled the sides level with six minutes left on the clock and it was nail-biting stuff as the clock ticked down. Three minutes into injury time, Achill were given a free from a long way out, Pee Sweeney's effort dropped short and Mitchels recycled the ball and worked it up the field finishing up with Murphy showing a cool head to bisect the posts and seal the deal at the death.
It was the county town clubs first junior championship since 1923 and it also gave their full forward Kevin Filan the full house of club medals in the county, adding the junior championship to the senior and intermediate titles he's already won. For Achill they have to pick up the pieces very quickly as there is still a Connacht title to go for as they enter the provincial championship as Mayo representatives, with Castlebar not being able to as they are the clubs second team.
Castlebar Mitchels: K Filan (0-4,4f ), D Stenson (1-0 ),S Dolan (0-2 ), K Costello (0-1 ), L Ruddy (0-1 ), P Fitzmaurice (0-1 ), A Murphy (0-1 )
Achill: M D McNamara (1-0 ), D McNamara (1-0 ), S Irwin (1-0, OG ), P Sweeney (0-2, 1f ), J Fadian (0-1 )
Castlebar Mitchels: N Feeney; M Towey, A Roche, B Hennelly; S Irwin, N McCarney, A Flynn; S Fitzmaurice, P Fitzmaurice; S Dolan, A Murphy, L Ruddy; D Stenson, K Filan, K Costello. Subs: P Flynn for B Hennelly, S Hopkins for L Ruddy, J Gannon for D Stenson, N Jordan for K Costello
Achill: S Cafferkey; B Gallagher, L Gallagher, C Cafferkey; F Gallagher, S Grealis, T Dever; M D McNamara, J Fadian; G Cafferkey, P Gallagher, R Kilbane; Terence Dever, MD Sweeney, P Sweeney. Subs: B Lavelle for Terence Dever, D McNamara for R Kilbane, R Kilbane for P Gallagher, O Cooney for F Gallagher (BC ), P Gallagher for T Dever
Ref: J Finn (Aghamore )
*Teams listed as per starting positions by number, not necessarily as they lined out on the field.