Achill have set-up a fairytale Connacht Junior final against Aran Islands

Anytime you win a county senior title is a good time but there are certain times when it can be more favourable than others.

This is not one of those years, neither was last year for Castlebar Mitchells.

Going back to Pat Holmes post match interview in 2013 after Castlebar put 20 years of hurt to bed in capturing their first Moclair Cup in that time, I was a little astonished.

Holmesy did not realise his team were playing Corofin in the Connacht semi-final in Tuam. Thinking back, when I won my first Moclair Cup in 2001, I had no idea who Charlestown were playing either. Fast forward eight years to 2009, when I won my second senior final and I was still none the wiser - no idea who we were to play in the Connacht series.

I didn’t even know what county we were to play against never mind what teams were even in the final in the other Connacht counties.

My point is, winning your county championship completely and utterly consumes your every thought and action and you are oblivious to what is happening elsewhere, so I now understand where Holmesy was coming from.

He didn’t care about anything else, tunnel vision if you want.

Going back to my earlier point, last year was a particularly bad year to win the Mayo title as the big hitters in Galway (Corofin ) and Roscommon (St Brigids ) both won their respective titles and, to make matters worse, the Mitchels had to travel to Tuam first and then Hyde Park to beat the All-Ireland champions, which they did with two very gritty performances.

Little did Ballintubber know at the time but Castlebar were in fact doing them a huge favour.

This year the big guns have come out on top again in Roscommon and Galway but our county champions, Ballintubber, are entitled to home advantage because of Castlebar’s exploits last year.

You quite simply have to take whatever advantage is going your way and the familiar surrounding of McHale Park should help Ballintubber’s cause.

St Brigids are formidable opponents and won’t mind coming to the county town to play.

They have fond memories of McHale Park after winning the Connacht title there against Ballaghadeereen, just two short years ago. On their day they would compete against most county teams and they are expertly coached by our very own Liam McHale.

I have heard Shane Curran and co. heap so much praise on the coaching they get from the Ballina native.

McHale will be anxious to get one over his former team mates, Peter Forde. There is no question Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor will get some extra attention from the water tight St Brigid’s defence.

Jason Gibbons and Stephen Broderick will have to be on top of their game to starve their opponents attack whilst also not letting Karol Mannion dictate the proceedings.

Ballintubber have yet to win a game in the provincial series, losing to Killererin of Galway in 2010 and Corofin in 2011 after winning their last two county titles. They will want to put that statistic to bed. If that is to change, they will need a nine out of 10 performance, not just from Cillian O’Connor and Alan Dillon but from the entire team. They are capable.

Peter Forde will have to get his match-ups spot on. Senan Kilbride and Frankie Dolan are game winners and will need watching. It’s a tough one to call.

We were treated to a real humdinger of a game in the Connacht junior semi-final between Achill and Michael Glavey’s of Roscommon. Achill looked dead and buried and were four points down with only four minutes left on the clock but a fortuitous goal from the hard working Michael D McNamara and a splendid levelling free from Pee Sweeney brought the game into extra time.

I don’t think it is possible for one individual to have as much influence in extra time as Jonathon Fadian did for the islanders. Despite playing the full game, he got an amazing burst of energy for Achill in extra time, scoring four invaluable points to seal the victory.

He had so much energy to burn, he leapt to the air like a buck goat celebrating each of his fine scores. I was pleading with him to conserve his energy for the next ball as he jumped three or four times after each score punching the Castlebar air.

Achill have now set up a fairytale Connacht Junior final against the Aran Islands of Galway. Word broke through to us in Castlebar of the Ballyhaunis demise in the Intermediate semi-final against St Croan’s of Roscommon. I immediately, without any direct knowledge, apportioned their performance to fatigue, having so many players competing for the hurlers as well as the footballers.

They have nothing to be ashamed of. If someone was to tell you they would have won the Intermediate title in Mayo three months ago, no one would have believed it, which constitutes a very successful season.

Congratulations to Ballintubber on completing the league and Championship double - winning the senior league last Sunday but unfortunately relegating my own club Charlestown at the same time.

I am sure many ‘Tubber fans had their hearts in their mouths when they thought Cillian O’Connor was issued a straight red card and would miss the St Brigids game on Sunday. Lucky for them, and his team mates, it was two yellows, because I feel they will need him.


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