For the second time in three years, Castlebar Mitchels dream of bringing the Andy Merrigan Cup home with them was stopped at the final stage by opposition from Dublin. Unlike this time two years ago when the Mitchels adventure came on the back of their first county title in 20 years, this was a Mitchels side who had came back again this year and saw off last year’s champions Corofin, before seeing off Crossmaglen in an epic semi-final. However, they met a Ballyboden St Enda’s side who had a game plan that worked to a tee, with runners from deep causing Castlebar all sorts of problems and the static nature of the Mitchels attack playing straight into their hands. Castlebar will be disappointed with how they performed on the day and will know they could have done much better than they did.
One of the two men with Mayo blood in their veins Colm Basquel sent shivers down the spine of the Mitchels faithful when he drove the ball past Rory Byrne with just over a minute gone. Ballyboden won the first kick-out of the day after a wide from Paddy Durcan after the first half and the ball was played to Aaran Watters who drove down the Cusack Stand side of the field and he played in his number 11 who fired the ball low to the net to raise the first green flag of the day.
The Dublin and Leinster champions were out of the blocks and Castlebar were left reeling from the shock from which they never recovered from over the rest of the half. Two minutes later, corner back Bob Dwan fired over the first of two first half points he got.
Mitchels did have plenty of the ball, but their attacking play was slow and laboured with players opting to pass the ball rather than take on the shot. Even when they did get some shots off they saw three of them blocked down by a rabid Ballyboden defence.
The Dublin champions had their homework done and they ran Mitchels ragged, creating overlap after overlap that Castlebar couldn’t get to grips with. Even when they seemed to have an avenue closed off, the Dublin men were able to move the ball swiftly from side to side to where they always had a man running in support.
Michael Dara Maculey fisted his side’s second point after a neat one-two move down the Hogan Stand side of the field with Darren O’Reilly. Ryan Basquel made it 1-3 to 0-0 with a fine left foot finish 13 minutes in. A minute later and Boden were in again when Basquel got in behind the Mitchels defence and Tom Cunniffe hauled him down for a penalty, Cunniffe escaped without a booking but Andrew Kerin made no mistake from the spot and fired the ball low past Byrne to the bottom corner, to put his side nine points clear with just 15 minutes gone.
It was all going wrong for Mitchels they needed something big to get back into this game, but they just couldn’t fashion it. Eoghan O’Reilly kicked a scoreable free wide on the near side, Stephen Keane kicked another one wide from open play as their misses kept mounting up.
Just before the 20-minute mark the chance they craved arrived and Neil Lydon was put through on goal, but Paul Durcan pulled off an unbelieveable save to force it on to the post and out for a 45 which was converted by Neil Douglas for Castlebar’s first score of the game.
But the Dublin men replied in fine style by reeling off the next two points with Dwan kicking his second of the game when he was found in acres of space 35 metres out and Stephen O’Connor slotted home after a fine run by Darren O’Reilly.
Dougles kicked Mitchels’ second score of the game three minutes from the break and Neil Lydon followed with a brilliant point from out under the Cusack Stand, but it was still looking like it would be all in vein. In injury time Hawkeye was called into action for the second time in the half when Richie Feeney’s effort looked to have crept over the bar, but it was judged to have gone over the post and thus deemed to have been wide. The Dublin champions went in leading by 2-5 to 0-3 at the turn around.
Mitchels needed to get a goal early in the second half if they were going to have any way of getting back into this game, but they didn’t create the chance the needed in the opening stage as Ballyboden kept them at bay, with Stephen Hiney doing a great job and Danny Kirby keeping him out of the game for the most part and the well organised Boden defence closing down the opposition at every corner. Dwan who picked up the man of the match award kicked his third point of the day five minutes after the break to keep the Ballyboden scoreboard ticking over and that score was followed by efforts from Shane Durkin, Conal Keaney and Ryan Basquel to leave the score at 2-8 to 0-3 with 15 minutes left to play.
Mitchels did get a little scrorng run going with Aidan Walsh kicking two points from frees and Paddy Durcan directing one over the bar, but at that stage it was all about just closing out the day for Ballyboden., who still had time to reel off six more scores to Castlebar’s one over the closing stages as the Mayo side fell short at the final stage for the second time in three years.
Castlebar Mitchels: N Douglas (0-2, 1 45 ), A Walsh (0-2, 2f ), J Durcan (0-1 ), P Durcan (0-1 )
Ballyboden St Endas: A Kerin (1-2, 1-0 pen ), C Basquel (1-1 ), B Dwan (0-3 ), S Durkin (0-2 ), R Basquel (0-2 ), S O’Connor (0-1 ), MD Macauley (0-1 ), D O’Reilly (0-1 ), C Keaney (0-1 )
Castlebar Mitchels: R Byrne; T Cunniffee, A Feeney, D Newcombe; P Durcan, E O’Reilly, R O’Malley; G McDonagh, B Moran; S Hopkins, N Lydon, N Douglas; S Keane, R Feeney, D Kirby. Subs: F Durkan for S Hopkins, J Durcan for R Feeney, C Costello for S Keane, S Conlan for R O’Malley, R Burke for D Newcombe.
Ballyboden St Endas: P Durcan; B Dwan, S Hiney, S Clayton; R McDaid, D Nelson, A Watters; MD Maculey, S Durkin; D O’Reilly, C Basquel, S O’Connor; R Basquel, C Keaney, A Kerin. Subs: C Flaherty for D Nelson (BS ), S Lambert for MD Maculey, D Davey for D O’Reilly, S Moloney for R Basquel, D McHale for A Waters, S Gibbons for R McDaid
Ref: C Lane (Cork )