Breaffy and Mitchels to battle it out to be the best

GAA: Mayo GAA SFC Final

Catch me if you can: Can Castlebar Mitchels stop Aidan O'Shea on Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Catch me if you can: Can Castlebar Mitchels stop Aidan O'Shea on Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Since the last time that these two neighbours came together in the senior championship, Breaffy have won their two league meetings, a 2-13 to 0-7 win in 2014, and a 3-9 to 1-12 victory in the spring of this year. But it is the meeting before those two that was the last big one, with Mitchels claiming their 28th senior title on a rain soaked day back in 2013.

Two years later the same two sides will meet again this Sunday to decide whether the Paddy Moclair Cup will be wintering in the heart of the town or three miles to the east of MacHale Park. For Castlebar Mitchels this will be their fifth senior final in six years, but they have only won one of those finals, against Breaffy in 2013, with Ballintubber disposing of them in the three finals they have lost to date in that run. For Breaffy it is only their second ever senior final, but for a side that in 2003 won the junior title and a year later backed that up by winning the intermediate crown, it has been an amazing run from the junior ranks to mixing it regurlary with the big boys of the game in Mayo.

While the game will be won and lost on the field, there are as many sub-plots going on in the build up to the game as David Simon squeezed into five seasons of The Wire. Two different O'Reilly families will be split down the middle on Sunday. The first one sees brothers Tommy and Eoghan lining out for Breaffy and Castlebar Mitchels respectively. Their father Tom who captained Mitchels to the 1993 senior championship is now also a selector with Breaffy.

The second O'Reilly clan sees Castlebar Mitchels joint manager Declan O'Reilly now facing the team that he managed in the 2013 final. While Declan was a proud Mitchels player in his playing days, a number of his brothers allegiances on the playing field were firmly rooted in the blue and white of Breaffy at the same time. You can also throw in the fact a couple of cousins will be facing each other, and most of the players will have played together on schools' teams through the years and various inter-county sides, there is not much that Castlebar and Breaffy do not know about each other, adding to what should be a fascinating encounter.

County town men packed with talent

Mitchels this year are being overseen by the duo of Declan O'Reilly and Declan Shaw, and they have retained the core group of players that made it all the way to Croke Park in the All Ireland final in 2014. One key change has seen Rory Byrne take over in goal from Ciaran Naughton, but Byrne's transition has been so smooth and successful Byrne has also been appointed the captain of the team. In front of Byrne on Sunday the answer to where the Moclair Cup will end up will be answered. In their semifinal win, Aidan O'Shea was simply devastating when he went into the full forward position, finishing the day with 2-1 and winning a penalty. What will Mitchels do to stop O'Shea when he goes in there is the big question everyone is looking to be answered.

In their semifinal Mitchels started with Tom Cunniffe, Ray O'Malley, and Donie Newcombe in their full back line. On Sunday, they will probably go for a more physical line with the potential of Barry Moran dropping back in front of that line, like he did for Mayo against Donegal, or Alan Feeney coming back into the starting line-up to add to the physicality. Mitchels would loath to have to sacrifice Moran from the middle of the park, where he has been in excellent form for them this year.

In their half back line, Mitchels have plenty of attacking threat with Eoghan O'Reilly scoring 1-2 in their semi-final win from wing back, while Paddy Durcan is fast becoming one of the most exciting talents in the game in the county. Sean Conlon is a teak tough defender who will do what is needed to stop his man having an impact on the game.

In the middle of the park Ger McDonagh and Barry Moran are a formidable pairing, with either of the men potentially being asked to try to curb Aidan O'Shea during the game, even if they have to sacrifice one of this duo, they have the option of bringing Aidan Walsh back into the middle of the park after he missed out on the semifinal.

Up front Mitchels have a serious amount of attacking threat, with the half forward line of Shane Hopkins, Neil Douglas, and Neil Lydon having the potential to cause serious damage to Breaffy if they click. Hopkins in particular has been in rare form this year in the championship knock-out stages, and his all action hard working style will take some serious minding. While Breaffy have their own big man to deploy in the full forward line, Mitchels have their own twin towers approach they can utilise, with Danny Kirby and Richie Feeney ready to test the Breaffy full back line's physicality and power, Cian Costello came into the corner forward line for Mitchels in their semifinal win and he chipped in with two points during his time on the field.

Mitchels also have an array of talent they can deploy from the bench with James Durcan, Fergal Durcan, Stephen Keane, and Aidan Walsh all acomplished and serious players.

No fears for Breaffy

Breaffy for their part are no slouches either, while they are backboned by the inter-county stars, Aidan and Seamus O'Shea and Robbie Hennelly, it is the other players in their side who are well able to step up to the mark that will be key in their winning this game. Breaffy are managed by former All Ireland club winner Damien Mulligan, and his team have shown constant growth throughout the championship campaign. In goal Robbie Hennelly is as good as it gets in the game. In defence they will be hoping that both Michael Hall and David Gavin can get over injuries and take their place in the starting 15. Hall had a niggling hamstring injury that saw him miss their quarterfinal win over Garrymore and come off early in their semifinal win over Ballintubber. Gavin limped out of their league victory over Ballina the week before their semifinal and was not able to play any part in that win.

One man who has really stepped up to the plate this year in defence for Breaffy is Colm Jordan who has excelled in a sweeping roll and put in some top class performances for his team. Colm Kelly and Micheal Jennings, can swap in and out between the full back and centre-half back positions with ease, and both men are classy and composed footballers, while Rory Martyn is a live wire all action man, who can easily pop up in any area of the field and is an excellent link man with a fine passing range for setting up attacks.

In the middle of the park Seamus O'Shea and Robbie Fadden have formed an excellent partnership, with Fadden coming on in leaps and bounds this term alongside his more experienced colleague. Breaffy have added some extra size to their half forward line this year, with Gary Walsh and Matthew Ruane normally taking up wing-forward roles. These men are a recent Mayo minor pairing and their hard working style is key to Breaffy's attacking potential and their ability to win the battle in the middle third of the pitch.

Conor O'Shea is a man who will be keen to impress, he has been in around the fringes of the Mayo team for the last number of years, but has got a lot of club football under his belt this year, he has a the ability to kick a score from well out the park and to cause havoc close to goal. Tommy O'Reilly might be one of the smallest men on the field on Sunday, but he is a player who is never afraid of any battle, and will take the game to whoever is tasked with picking him up. O'Reilly has bags of speed and a great eye for a score and could be a potential game winner on his day. Keith Mulchrone started in the semifinal for Breaffy and was a key man for them, working tirelessly all day and setting up a number of scores, while Gareth Dunne is another tricky attacker Breaffy can call on, as is Gerry Jennings. Jennings is the veteran of the team and bleeds blue and white, he has been with this side since their junior days and will not be found wanting when called on. Breaffy have also welcomed the return to club duty of former minor star Liam Irwin, the big man with a deft touch could easily be thrown in on Sunday and cause havoc in the Mitchels' defence, while Peter Dravins, Dylan Cannon, Eddie Conroy, and Patrick Collins are all players who can make a major impact from the bench.

All in all this should be a fascinating encounter on Sunday, with very little between the two sides. Recent history and experience signposts a Castlebar victory, but that will mean very little once the ball is thrown in on Sunday afternoon.

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