The crowds had well cleared out of the stand in Hyde Park and the TV crew were busy taking apart their rigging, but Castlebar Mitchels joint manager, Declan O’Reilly was still talking football well after his side had booked their place in the Connacht final in a fortnights time. O’Reilly was obviously pleased that his side had sealed their place in the showpiece club game in the provience, but he also admitted he knew there was plenty for his charges to work on over the next two weeks.
“We did get a good start, we had looked to get a good start. We got the goals at crucial times the way it panned out at the end. I felt we sat back a bit on the scores in the second half, we (had ) looked to push on a bit more and I believe, and I think we lost a bit of momentum around the middle third of the pitch. They were picking up a lot of ball, a lot of breaks and at the end I wouldn’t say we were hanging on, but we made hard work of it. But then it’s a Connacht semi-final, in Hyde Park and they are never going to be won easy” were his initial thoughts on the game.
The three goals that Mitchels scored in the opening stages of the first half, set up the win. While they did go looking to start the game well, scoring three goals in such a short time wasn’t something they had purposely targeted said O’Reilly. “Not specifically goals, but we targeted a good start. We’ve said all year that if there’s a goal on, go and take it and be ruthless in there. We didn’t set out in the dressing room and say look lads we need to have three goals in the back of the net by 15 minutes, we didn’t do it that way. But we trusted the players, that they are good enough, once they are in there and if there are chances that they’ll take them. We did that and it was crucial that we went in at half time four points up after playing against a strong breeze. Now we looked to kick on at the start of the second half, it didn’t happen really, Clann na nGael got a better start that we did, they came at us a bit. Without saying we were hanging on, we made harder work of it than I would have liked in the second half.”
Resilience shown to hold off Clann challenge
With the Roscommon champions cutting the gap back to two points early on in the second half and the momentum seemingly with them, Mitchels hit a purple patch where the kicked three points in quick succession to stretch back out their lead and that showed the character of the side O’Reilly believes. “Yah, but these lads are seasoned campaigners, 13 of that team started, they played here two years in a Connacht final, a cracking Connacht final that they won, that went to extra time against St Brigids, so they know what it’s all about. They know, it takes a lot of work and lot of effort to roll up the sleeves and dig out results. So resilience is part of the armour, but we’ll need to improve dramatically to trouble Corofin at all.”
Knowing you’ve to improve your performance is one thing, but actually making sure you do it is another thing he believes, “Yah, it’s easy to talk about, it but to talk about it and do it, are two very different things. But we have plenty to work on, you’d probably say it’s not a bad way to go into a final, but realistically we’ve a huge mountain of work to, to go to Tuam to take on the All Ireland champions in their back yard.
No stone left unturned
“It’s good and they are experienced men and this team is really five or six years in the making. It’s a (big ) challenge that lies ahead, we’re looking forward to it and Connacht club final is a great place to be. We enjoyed winning the county title that was the goal at the start of the year, we had a night out, we curtailed it at that. We went back at it to train for two weeks for this semi-final, we knew it was going to be tough, we got over the line and now we’ve a Connacht final to prepare for.”
The preparation and dedication from everyone involved that goes into bringing a club team to the level that Castlebar Mitchels want to get to, is something that O’Reilly says takes a massive commitment from everyone within the group. “The level of preparation for the players never mind the management is unbelievable. What they have to go through - dietary, recovery sessions, pool sessions, we’ll get on the pitch on Tuesday or Wednesday, we’ll have video analysis and we’ll have more stuff next weekend and we have to train and the boys will have to come from all over Ireland to train with us. From Limerick, Carlow and Dublin and everywhere so collectively we’ll train centrally, so you’ve all those kind of things and the logistics of all that is big and we’ll have to get all that sorted and done. The effort the lads put in is phenomenal, but it’s great.”
All that matters is what happens on the field
As for facing off against the man who looks to be just a mere formality away from being the new Mayo senior manager, O’Reilly says that while it adds something extra to the game, all that matters is what happens between the white lines of the field. “He’s (Stephen Rochford ) done a remarkable job with Corofin who are a top class team. It’s a new dynamic the fact that he’s the (presumptive ) incoming Mayo manager, but look it’s only a sideshow. Really it’s about the players on the pitch those two sets who’ll take each other on. But look we’ve got work to do, but life is about challenges, sport is about challenges, we’re looking forward to it immensely, if anyone said to me at the start of January, you’re going to be in a Connacht club final towards the end of November, I’d have snapped it off with both hands and that’s where we are at the moment.”