When St Patrick's day rolls around Castlebar Mitchels will be hoping they are preparing for a perfect ten out of ten record in championship games in the All Ireland final. The Mayo and Connacht champions have played in and won eight championship games since they opened their account on a rainy Saturday evening in Josie Munnelly Park against Ballaghaderreen early last summer.
Since then they've seen off the best Mayo has to offer and the best both Roscommon and Galway could provide over their eight championship games so far. Tomorrow evening in Cavan they'll be looking to make it nine from nine when they take on Crossmaglen Rangers, the second most successful club in the history of the All Ireland series, winning six titles between 1997 and their last win in 2012. Mitchels for their part have appeared in two finals in 1993 and 2014 losing both and they're itching to get back and make sure it's third time lucky for them on St Patrick's Day.
It will be no easy task for the Mitchels men, but they have shown time and time again over the past season that they are fully confident in their abilities to deliver on the big day and they have delivered time after time in the red and yellow. Joint managers Declan O'Reilly and Declan Shaw have put together a serious outfit who have quality all over the field right from front to back. Rory Byrne has stepped into the goalkeepers position like a duck to water this year and the young man has been a fantastic captain for the Mitchels. In front of him he has one of the most formidable full-back lines in the club game with Tom Cunniffe, Alan Feeney and Donie Newcombe bringing strength, speed, and guile to that line.
The half-back line which will probably consist of Paddy Durcan, Eoghan O'Reilly and Ray O'Malley are equally as capable of punishing Crossmaglen on the scoreboard as they are of keeping things locked down at the back. In the middle of the park O'Reilly and Shaw have a wide variety of options with Ger McDonagh, Barry Moran, Aidan Walsh, Richie Feeney, and Danny Kirby all capable of doing a more than top class job in that sector or further forward.
In attack, Neil Douglas has been hitting the high notes all season long and if he can keep that run going he's more than capable of puncturing a hole in the Crossmaglen defence. Neil Lydon is another who can influence the game if he gets on enough ball, while Shane Hopkins is one of the hardest working wing-forwards going and he's guaranteed to put in an all action shift tomorrow night. Of course Mitchels have plenty strength in depth with Cian Costello, who started their Connacht final win, surely in with a shout at a place on the starting 15, while the likes of James Durcan, Fergal Durkan, Ronan Burke, Sean Conlon, and Stephen Keane among others who'll want badly to be part of the action.
Of course standing in their way on Saturday night is a Crossmaglen side who are fully loaded with talent themselves, with familiar names like Aaron Kernan and Jamie Clarke in their ranks, while Tony Kernan, Kyle Carragher, John Hanratty, Michael McNamee and Stephen Kernan all key men in their extra time win over Monaghan outfit Scottstown in their Ulster Final, an 11th provincal title for the black and amber men from south Armagh.
It promises to be an enthralling encounter under the lights in Cavan tomorrow night and Castlebar will be hoping they've done enough to ensure there's at least one more big day out in the near future.