After the high of winning their second senior county title in three years, it was back to the mundane business of league football for Castlebar Mitchels last weekend. But they had a job to do and they did it in style hammering Crossmolina Deel Rovers and in the process picking up the senior league title to go with the championship they'd won the week before.
This Sunday it's all together different beast that the Mitchels face into when the take on the Roscommon champions Clann na nGael in Hyde Park in the semi-final of the Connacht Club Senior Football Championship. The old ground on the Athlone Road will have happy memories for the Castlebar contingent, it was in this same venue on a rain sodden day that they turned over the then All Ireland champions St Brigid's in the Connacht final two years ago. This years Roscommon opponents, while not as vaunted in the present as the side they faced last time they where here are still a serious obstacle for Declan O'Reilly and Declan Shaw's charges to get over if they are going to have a cut at another Connacht senior title in a fortnights time and then whatever the All Ireland series brings in the Spring. While they've been out of the picture for a few years now until breaking back into the big time to claim their first Roscommon title in 19 years the club are old hands at this Connacht Championship lark, having claimed the title on seven times in the past, including a six in a row run.
But times have changed and Castlebar Mitchels are going into the game as favourites and they've earned that right over the past number of years. They have a side who just under two years ago went all the way to the All Ireland final only to be beaten by a St Vincents side that would have put many middle ranking inter-county sides under serious examination. After coming undone in last years Mayo final, they bounced back with aplomb and laid down a serious statement of intent against Breaffy in the county final and have their eyes firmly fixed on the next big prize in front of them.
Standing in their way is a side with serious credentials themseleves, with the likes of Donie Shine and Cathal Shine two men very familiar to people in Mayo and in Ultan Harney they have a man who anyone whose been watching underage football in the province over the last number of years has the potential to become a really big star player, while they also have plenty more successful underage players from Roscommon teams of the recent past, with 2006 All Ireland winning minor captain David Kenny in their defence others like Enda Kenny and Johnathan Dunning all very decent players. Of course they also have plenty of experience on the sideline with former Dublin star Paul Curren in charge of the Clann men this year.
While Messers O'Reilly and Shaw will have given plenty thought to what to do to stop their opponents on Sunday, the Mitchels have as much quality in their own ranks to know they have the potential to win this game. At the back Alan Feeney came into the county final for his first senior start this year an hardly put a foot wrong. Alongside him you've the experience of the likes of Tom Cunniffe, the reliable duo of Eoghan O'Reilly and Donal Newcombe, while Ger McDonagh continues to impress and Paddy Durcan's development as a real talent continues at pace. In the middle of the park Barry Moran and Aidan Wash can go up against the best that any club side have to offer and come out on top, while in attack Neil Douglas will still be on a high after his goal scoring exploits in the county final. Richie Feeney and Danny Kirby will cause plenty of headaches for the Clann full pack line, while Neil Lydon's calm and experience can be counted on and Shane Hopkins' all action style will be headache for whatever players is tasked to pick him up.
It should be an entertaining encounter on Sunday and if Mitchels want it, they have what it takes to book a place in the final of this competition for the second time in three years.