Kirby is ready to double up

Wherever he lines out on the field, Danny Kirby is a man who gets special attention. The big Castlebar man could feature anywhere from midfield through to full forward for his team on Sunday. While some players like a certain role in a team, Kirby feels that his adaptability has made him become a much better player, as he told the Mayo Advertiser in the build up to Sunday’s final. “I think it’s a help, you become a more rounded player. If you’re in the full forward line you see the kind of ball a full forward wants; when you’re out midfield and you get the full forward line giving you a bit of guff about the ball you’ve played in, you know, yeah you’re right, this is ball you want.”

There is still plenty of room for improving his game, he acknowledges, and it’s something that he’s working hard on every day. He said: “There’s definitely room to improve in some areas. Some aspects of the game I think I have improved, but hopefully there’s a good few more where I can improve and I hope I’m going in the right direction.”

Having seen their season stretch all the way out to the All Ireland final in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, and seen their manager call it a day in the aftermath of the end of that run, it could have been difficult for the Mitchels to get back up and running for another crack at it this year, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. The continuity of the change over of the management played a big part in that according to Danny. “With the lads taking over this year, I think everyone was pleased with their appointment, everyone was shocked with Pat (Holmes ) going, but the two lads stepped up to the plate. But to be in another county final again in October, it’s happy days.” But it did take a while to get back in the mindset of starting all over again the early days of this season, Kirby admits. “For me, the first two or three trainings back, the head wasn’t just right. After the long year you kinda need more of a break. But we’d championship coming up quickly again. After the third or fourth training session, we came together and talked and things picked up again.”

Getting back on the road

That first championship game back was of course against Ballintubber where Castlebar Mitchels came out on the right side of a 1-12 to 0-12 win in Clogher, a game Kirby scored a point in. But the result means nothing now ahead of Sunday he says. “It was a good win, I wouldn’t say it was overly important now, come county final day anything can happened. You saw in the semi-final, Ballintubber and Knockmore, that was freak result. What’s gone already in championship is history. It might have a little bit of a bearing, but I don’t know if it will.” As for where he sees the key battles being on the day, Kirby wasn’t giving much away, but he reckons there’s not much between the sides at all. “We’re well matched one to 15 and even the bench it’s all about who performs on the day. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, a county final is just there to be won and that’s it.”

Castlebar’s view point this year hasn’t been about defending the county title they won last year, it was just about taking each day as it came, said Danny. “Our mindset is to finish one game and think of the next training session, not even the next game. When can I improve again, that’s what you’re thinking.” But there is still a big improvement to come from his team he believes. “We haven’t reached the heights we did last year especially in Mayo, but it just shows that we weren’t going well and we still made it to the county final so we’re happy enough.”

Picking up their first county title in 20 years was a massive relief to the club and everyone involved and when they left the Mayo championship behind Mitchels opened up and flourished. Getting that monkey off their back in winning the Moclair Cup is something that even a young man like Kirby felt relief about last year, he admits. “To finally get over the line was a massive relief if anything, I remember sitting in the dressing room after the final last year and there was almost a weight lifted off my back when we won it. After that we really believed in ourselves and we weren’t as cautious.”

There to be knocked at

Going into this year’s championship as the defending champions made sure that Castlebar had an even bigger target on their backs than normal for opposing teams, but that’s something they enjoyed the challenge of, Kirby says. “It’s great for us as team, we know we’re not going to get any soft games, soft calls from the ref, we know every team is going to lift it 20 to 30 per cent when we come to their ground and we love that.”

If you cast your mind back to the early months of 2012, Kirby hit the headlines nationally for bagging four goals for Mayo in a FBD League game against GMIT. With his former club manager Pat Holmes now back in situ as the joint manager of the Mayo senior team, does he think he’ll be getting the call to come back on board next year? Kirby says it hasn’t even entered his mind. “I haven’t even thought of it, we’re always on about next training and next game, that’s all I think about.”


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