Castlebar Mitchels renew acquaintances with Corofin in the Connachht Club final this Sunday in Tuam in what promises to be a mouth watering clash. Both teams know each other very well at this stage having crossed paths three times in the last number of years. Corofin needing extra-time last year to beat Castlebar in MacHale Park. Coincidently Mitchels have beaten the Galway kingpins twice in Tuam in what were rip-roaring encounters. Neither team seems to be at the level that they were a number of years ago, but they are still very evenly matched.
The personal duel between Paddy Durcan and Gary Sice should be worth the entrance fee alone. If Castlebar are to win their third Connacht title since 2013 they will have to produce something we haven't seen of them this year. Neil Douglas has been showing glimpses of what he is capable of and no doubt Corofin are well aware of his threat. Who will ever forget his wonder goal in Tuam in 2015? Castlebar may well need another one from him this Sunday. In the last two clashes between the sides in Tuam, the final in 2013 and the semi-final in 2015 Castlebar found the back of the net twice in both games. They most certainly will need a goal or two this time around.
How Declan Reilly and Declan Shaw line out their team is of utmost importance. Against St Brigids, Corofin left Martin Farragher and Ian Burke inside in a two man full-forward line and looked to kick the ball long to them whenever the opportunity arrived. Ger McDonagh and Donie Newcombe will no doubt be their shadows on Sunday, two more duels that will certainly have a big bearing on the outcome. Burke of course was the star of last year's meeting between the sides scoring four points, two of which were in extra time albeit when Castlebar were out on their feet. Barry Moran and Danny Kirby will have to exert a physical dominance around the middle, an area where I feel they will be capable of winning the lion's share of possession which should give the Mitchels a chance of upsetting the odds. Corofin are the favourites at 8/15 while Castlebar are priced at 15/8. If I'm not mistaken the odds were similar the last time they played in Tuam. Best of luck to the Mitchels.
International Rules sparked plenty of debate
I reserved from mentioning the International Rules in last week's column as I wanted to see what unfolded in the second test. In the first test Ireland looked slightly off the pace and only for Conor McManus scoring a massive 24 points, the second test would have been a dead rubber. At stages in that first test it looked like it was the Aussies who were using their ball of choice as some of the hand passing and kick passing from Ireland was atrocious to say the least.
Australia must be given great credit for their ability to adapt to using a round ball. Ireland made a proper contest of it in the second series racing into a half time lead of 13 points and a three-point lead on aggregate. Mayo's Chris Barrett showing all the prowess of a clinical striker with a superb goal for Ireland. Ireland will be disappointed they lost the second test after been ahead for three of the four quarters as the professional Australians clawed back a 16 point deficit to win by three points. It was relief all round from a Mayo point of view as both Aidan O'Shea and Chris Barrett recovered from big hits. Barrett's was particularly nasty and could easily have broken his jaw.
There seems to be great debate from all four corners about the validity and importance of the Compromise Rules as this year was the first year there wasn't a single representative from the All-Ireland champions. Injury, work commitments, and club football cited as the reasons there was no Dublin player in the squad which leads to my next point. It's a privilege to be asked to play for your country and even better to make the squad. Apart from the prestige factor, players get themselves a nice trip down under which may be the only chance they get to make the long journey so for me it's disappointing players from successful clubs have to decline the chance of playing in the compromise rules. If your club wins their county championship forget about playing for Ireland. I wonder what would have happened with Aidan O Shea had Breaffy won the county title this year. No players from Ballymun or St Vincent’s were able to commit because of the Dublin county final. Kilcar winning the county title in Donegal meant no Paddy McBrearty or Ryan McHugh (I’m sure both would have been invited in ). The list goes on, to make it more appealing players should not have to decline an offer to play because of football commitments which I know in the grand scheme of things is pretty impossible as the calender is already too congested.
Lahardane victory show what it's all about
The jubilant scenes at the end of the Connacht junior final were a perfect example of what the club is all about. Lahardane have come from no where to be crowned Connacht Junior champions. It's a brilliant story. Massive credit must be given to John Maughan and his team. Maughan has obviously cracked the whip and installed a bit of steely dedication in Lahardane. It just goes to show what a bit of organisation and commitment can do. Well done to all involved. I hope they enjoy training over Christmas with him, I didn't.