Just like in the county final Neil Douglas’ eye for goal was the crucial deciding factor for Castlebar Mitchels on Sunday when they claimed their second Connacht senior club title in three years in Tuam Stadium, in the process they sent the current All Ireland champions packing from the competition.
With three quarters of the game gone, Mitchels had pushed themselves into a hard earned one point lead, with Corofin breathing down their necks. Richie Feeney and Barry Moran combined to work the ball to Douglas out on the right hand side, it looked like he might have carried the ball a bit to far, but the hotshot Mitchels number 13 unleashed a pin point shot to the top corner of the net to put his side five clear and into a winning position they never looked like surrendering.
It was the defending champions who settled into the game better early on with Kieran Fitzgerald kicking the opening score of the game three minutes in, that was followed by a Martin Farragher point three minutes later to put his side two to the good.
Neil Lydon kicked Castlebar’s first score just after the six minute mark with a well taken finish off the outside of his boot following some good work by Neil Douglas in the build up. Two minutes later the first goal of the game arrived and it was a fantastic score. Danny Kirby did the donkey work, flicking the ball off the deck on the run before drawing the defender to create space for Barry Moran coming around from blindside. Moran showed great composure to fake out Tom Healy in the Corofin goal before beating him at his near post with a sweetly struck goal. Douglas hit free from the 21 to put Castlebar three points clear two minutes. Cian Costello could have snuck in for a second goal just before the quarter of an hour mark, but he was unable to control the ball after he’d been picked out by Douglas in the clear. The gap was stretched out to four points on the 17 minute mark when Moran drove the ball over the bar from well out the park. Corofin were rocking at this stage, but they regrouped like the champions they are and came back at Mitchels, reeling off three points on the bounce, thanks to two frees from the boot of Gary Sice and one from Ronan Steede.
But Mitchels came right back at them and Shane Hopkins point five minutes from the interval had their lead back out at two points, the game was ebbing and flowing each way as the clock wound down with Martin Farragher and Ian Burke levelling the game up with two well taken points, before Eoghan O’Reilly looked to have put Mitchels into a half time lead with a well taken free from tight to the right corner of the field. However there was still time for Martin Farragher to level the contest up in injury time from a placed ball.
The second half started off with a flurry of action with Douglas pointing early on from an acute angle, but Corofin had a number of chances to level it up, but saw two efforts drop wide and one into the hands of Rory Byrne in the Mitchels goal and it was eight minutes into the half before Dylan Wall finally got a score on the board for the Galway men. Douglas got in for another sore with 42 minutes gone on the clock to nudge his side back in front but it was to be his next involvement in the game that was the decisive one when he drove home his sides second goal of the game. Martin Farragher cut the difference between the sides back to just three points from a close range free, but it was to be his next involvement in the game that would see his sides chances take a fatal blow. Farragher was shown a second yellow card and his side reduced to 14 men for the remainder of the game and with that Mitchels were in control of their own destiny for the remainder of the game and they didn’t let the moment slip as they ran out handsome winners in the end.
Castlebar Mitchels: N Douglas 1-3 (1f ), B Morab (1-2 ), S Hopkins (0-1 ), R Feeney (0-1 ), N Lydon (0-1 ), S Keane (0-1 ), E O’Reilly 0-1 (1f ).
Corofin: Martin Farragher (0-4, 2fs ), G Sice (0-3,3fs ), I Burke (0-1 ), R Steede (0-1 ), K Fitzgerald (0-1 ), D Wall (0-1 ).
Castlebar Mitchels: R Byrne; T Cunniffe, A Feeney, D Newcombe; P Durkan, E O’Reilly, R O’Malley; G McDonagh, B Moran; S Hopkins, N Lydon, A Walsh; N Douglas, R Feeney, D Kirby. Subs: A Walsh for G McDonagh, J Durcan for C Costello, F Durkin for S Hopkins, S Conlon for D Newcombe, S Keane for N Lydon (BC ), R Burke for R Feeney
Corofin: T Healy; P Kelly, K Fitzgerald, C Cunningham; C McGrath, A Burke, L Silke; G Higgins, D Wall, Michael Farragher, Martin Farragher, M Lundy, I Burke. Subs: D Burke for G Higgins, C Silke for C McGrath, K Molloy for C Cunningham, J Leonard for M Lundy (BC )
Ref: E O’Grady (Leitrim )