After the start they got, Castlebar Mitchels made it much harder than it should have been as they booked their place in the Connacht Senior Club Final in a fortnights time with a four point win over Roscommon champions Clann na nGael in Hyde Park on Sunday.
Mitchels could’t have asked for a better start than they got, finding themselves 2-0 to 0-0 up after just three minutes of the game. Richie Feeney was the first man to bustle the back of the net, when some quick thinking by Danny Kirby set him up. Neil Douglas was galloping down the terrace side of the field when he was upended as the kicked the ball towards Kirby. Referee John Gilmartin gave the free from where the ball landed and Kirby quickly took it picking out the unmarked Castlebar full forward who drove the ball past Ronan O’Reilly with barely 40 seconds gone in the contest.
Two minutes later and the green flag was raised again, this time the ball was scuffed over the line by Barry Moran. The Mitchels midfielder was the man who ended up with the ball close to goal after some fine work by Shane Hopkins and Richie Feeney in the build up. Moran got the barest of touches to the ball as he was tackled, but it was enough to see it creep over the line and into the back of the net.
Playing against a very strong breeze and going six points up so early on it looked like there was only ever going to be one winner, but credit to Clann na nGael they managed to dig their way back into the game and make a contest of out it, but it always looked like Mitchels had what it took to hold off their challenge.
Clann raised their first white flag six minutes in when Jamie Fahy fired over a point from a free, but the victors hit straight back with two points in three minutes from the boot of Eoghan O’Reilly who wandered up from his defensive station to slot over two points from frees. The Roscommon men did reel off the next three points thanks to three long range frees from Donie Shine who was top class from placed balls all day. Clann had the aid of the wind in the first half constantly drove the ball in from out the park on top of Shine but the Mitchels defence was well up to the task and it was them who constantly emerged with the ball from these deliveries.
Eight minutes before the break any designs that Clann had on getting back into the game looked to have been extinguished when Danny Kirby was the third Mitchels man to register a goal. Kirby’s close range finish was enabled by some excellent work by Barry Moran, Richie Feeney and Neil Lydon, who fisted the ball across the face of the goal to the man who was in the better position rather than taking on the shot himself.
That goal looked to have sealed the deal, but back came Paul Curren’s men and they hit four points on the spin, one from a Shine placed ball, another from a Cathal Shine free that he was looking to drop into the danger area - but it carried on wind over the bar and then two great scores from Ultan Harney to cut the gap back to just three points. A minute into injury time, it looked like Mitchels were in for another goal when Patrick Durcan was put through in the clear but his effort was brilliantly saved by Ronan O’Reilly in the Clann goal. From the resulting 45’ the effort for a point dropped short, but Mitchels were able to recycle the ball back to Kirby who slotted it over the bar to put his side into a 3-3 to 0-8 lead at the short whistle.
The Roscommon champions started the second half brightly and two quick points from frees from the boot of Donie Shine cut the gap back to just two points, but some wayward shooting from play let Mitchels off the hook a bit. Five minutes into the half, Mitchels picked up the first of two black cards they received during the game when Aidan Walsh was shown one for a trip, that warranted little protest from the Castlebar number 12. But despite being under the cosh in the early stages, Mitchels showed what they were made and responded with three points in three minutes from the 42nd to 45th. The first from a Neil Douglas free after Barry Moran was fouled, then Patrick Durcan slung over a point after a great run and Shane Hopkins put the full stop on his afternoon’s work with a point just before he was replaced. The end of the game was a tit for tat battle on the scoreboard with Castlebar adding on two more points from subs James Durcan and Cian Costello and Shine kicking three more for his side. Clann needed to get a goal to get back into the game in the final ten minutes, but the closest they came was when Ultan Harney finally got in behind the Castlebar back three, but his first effort was blocked by Tom Cunniffe and Rory Byrne stood tall to stick out a leg and save the rebound from Harney.
All in all it’s job done for Mitchels, but they know they’ll have to do a lot of work between now and a fortnights time when they take on Corofin in the Connacht final. But the win was what they wanted and they managed to get that thanks to their devastating start to the contest.
Castlebar Mitchels: D Kirby (1-1 ), B Moran (1-0 ), R Feeney (1-0 ), E O’Reilly (0-2, 2f ), N Douglas (0-1, 1f ), P Durcan (0-1 ), S Hopkins (0-1 ), J Durcan (0-1 ), C Costello (0-1 )
Clann na nGael: D Shine (0-9, 8f ), U Harney (0-2 ), C Shine (0-1, 1f ), J Fahy (0-1, 1f )
Castlebar Mitchels: R Byrne; T Cunniffe, A Feeney, D Newcobe; P Durcan, E Reilly, R O’Malley; G McDonagh, B Moran; S Hopkins, N Lydon, A Walsh; N Douglas, R Feeney, D Kirby. Subs: S Conlon for R O’Malley (BS ), R O’Malley for S Conlon (BS ), C Costello for A Walsh (BC ), J Durcan for S Hopkins, F Durkan for N Lydon, S Keane for N Douglas, R Burke for D Kirby (BC )
Clann na nGael: R O’Reilly; R Gavin, D Flynn, S Petitt; J Connaughton, G Pettit, F Lennon; C Shine, D Shine; E Kenny, U Harney, M Scally; J Fahy, R McManus, J Dunning, Subs: S Flynn for S Pettit, C Callinan for M Scally, D Pettit for E Kenny, D Connaghton for R McManus, R Naughton for J Fahy, A O’Reilly for J Dunning
Ref: J Gilmartin (Sligo )