A blue and white night in Newry

This is a piece I wrote for the online edition of this week’s Mayo News.

The Newry Shamrocks’ clubhouse sits cheek-by-jowl with Páirc Esler – it’s to the Newry venue what An Sportlann is to MacHale Park, and as the Mitchels/ Dr. Crokes semi-final entered its decisive closing spell, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was Castlebar you were in, such were the lusty roars that arose every time Mitchels drove another nail in the coffin carrying Crokes’ hopes of making it to the stadium that bears their name for next month’s All-Ireland club final.

We’d arrived at Páirc Esler, having come up from the capital on one of the buses laid on by St Vincents, with almost two hours still to go until the day’s second All-Ireland club semi-final was due to throw in. That left plenty of time to catch the action from Portlaoise, and we were taking our seats in the lounge area of the Shamrocks’ clubhouse when, on the big screen, we could see that ‘The Gooch’ was down and didn’t look like getting back up anytime soon.

We were the first bus to arrive and so had our pick of where to sit to watch the action from O’Moore Park on television, but by the time the Mitchels game entered its final ten minutes, the place was absolutely heaving. Not only was everyone there shouting for the Mayo lads – it’ll be a long time before a team from Kerry manages to hoover up neutral support from any other part of the country – but to add to the confusion, almost everyone there was decked out in blue and white, the colours of Ballinderry as well as of St Vincents.

As I shepherded my young lad – who, like his two big sisters, plays underage for the Marino club – out through the throng after the final whistle had gone in Portlaoise, I asked a few of the Derry lads about what sort of a team they had. “A nice, wee, tidy team,” I was told and we agreed that the veracity of this assertion would be tested soon enough.

The light was fading and the floodlights were on as we took our seats in the fast-filling stand at Páirc Esler. With a biting wind whipping down off the hills, I was glad of all those extra layers I’d decided to wear, but the Vincents followers weren’t thinking of the cold as they watched their team scorch the northern lads with two goals inside the opening quarter.

The first came from Mossy Quinn, Vincents’ standout player on this club championship run. His Dublin playing days now behind him, Mossy has instead morphed into the complete club player – always in the right place to receive possession and never a man to waste it when he gets it.

The goal he scored was a cracking one, gathering possession 20 or so yards out and squeezing his shot low and hard into the corner, but his sublime cross-field pass that set up the second, blasted home by Ciaran Dorney, was worth the trip north alone.

That put the Marino lads in the driving seat, but they were unable to build on their early dominance and instead allowed Ballinderry back to within a point of them at the break. With the wind behind them in the second half, though, Vincents forged ahead again early in the second half and once more it looked as if they might win at their ease.

A hallmark of this Vincents’ run – and one that’ll give Mitchels plenty of hope in the final – has, however, been their inability to close out matches with efficiency. And it happened again in Newry, when a Ballinderry goal sparked a revival that almost caught the Dublin champions at the death. But, to their credit, Vincents never panicked and instead played their way out of this tight corner to win by four.

Saturday’s two semi-final results sets up what is potentially a cracking All-Ireland final between two teams who favour an open and attacking style of play. Mitchels will once again take the field as underdogs, but having repeatedly made a mockery of this tag on every outing they’ve made since capturing the Moclair Cup, they’re unlikely to be fazed by having to do so again in the final. Since capturing their first Dublin title in seven years last October, Vincents have had the mantle of favourites thrust on them at every turn. It’ll be no different for them in the final but Mitchels will, I reckon, represent a considerable step up on anything they’ve faced to date. This is a decider that really could go either way.

11 thoughts on “A blue and white night in Newry

  1. Hate to steal your thunder Willie Joe but, in your absence we were all reading this very fine piece, it was downloaded and posted by HopeSpringsEternal. Funny I was half way through reading it again when I realized there was something very familiar going on, it took me a while to figure it out – then again, I was always a bit slow :))

  2. We could have two all Irelands coming west if Portumna and Castlebar win on the 17th, The hurling is on 1st so i hope the Galway crowd stay back to cheer on the Mitchells. There may be a need to have floodlights on for the football in the 2nd half seeing as we are on latter.I hope the 2 feeneys are alright for the final they were carrying injuries for the
    Crokes games we will need everyone 100% for the final.I am not from Castlebar but it would mean so much to the County if they win,they have been underdogs from the Corofin
    game, and to add all Ireland club champions to the minor all Ireland title it would really show the rest of the Country that Mayo gaa is strong maybe as strong as any other County out there.We have not got the respect we deserve for winning u21, minor, club titles also we are one of the longest in the national league division 1 add to the fact that we have reached senior finals on a regular basis, we deserve more respect from the national media we always bring great support wherever we travel ,gaa would be at a huge loss if Mayo & Mayo teams decided to take a break like some Countys.I suppose that wont happen untill we land the big one, but Castlebar winning would give the whole County such a lift especially as its our cpital town.
    Come on the Mitchells do your County proud.
    Come on Mayo keep competing it will be a glorious end some day,some day & we will get our respect.

  3. Living in nyc I used to read the “irish voice” until I noticed one of their reporters kept nagging and degrading mayo football, a real nasty but of work. Cathal dervan is his name.
    The best put down ever was when “expert analyst” joe brolly was talking about cork v Kerry in the semi just before the cork v mayo game in 2011! Priceless ,mayo had no chance.
    The only way.

  4. I hear that compared to the playing panel for the Derry match, Eamonn Fitzmaurice the Kerry Manager can now call on; Daithi Casey, Marc O’ Se, Darran O’Sullivan, Johnny Buckley and Fionn Fitzgerald for his Kerry team against Mayo. I wonder what’s the story with the Mayo injuries, will we have any more players to call upon for the Kerry game or will we be without the lads who got injured against Tyrone as well?

  5. Good article WJ. Interesting to get the perspective of the neutrals cheering on the Mitchels – wonder was this more of an anti Kerry bias rather than a pro Mayo vibe or a combination of both? In any case, its going to be a great occasion in Croker on Mar 17th. I can’t see the Mitchels being stopped at this stage – great balance to the team with plenty of players who have the experience of Croke Park on the big day at minor / senior level as well as having a manager who reads the game very well and who is a clever tactician. Vincents are certainly a classy outfit with some top class individual players but whether they will be a match for Castlebar as a unit will be the big question…

  6. It’s a pity about the gooch but kerry won’t wallow too long. Kerry have a winning mentality and will soon be back to their smug indifference to all other matches that don’t throw in before the last sunday in september. That’s the Kerrry way.”Tis only this boy, tis only dat boy,” rankles deep from time to time, but I’ve learned just to let these things go on down the Swanee river.

    Mayo have had their own share of tough breaks but outside of feverent supporters, Mayo’s tough breaks mostly go unacknowledged. The aul “Hillbilly hokum pokum inbred curse” gets paraded around from time to time but I’ve learned to let these things go down that aul accomodating Swanee.

    Anyways l hope the gooch recovers in time for The championship, Mayo have been hardened too long too get anything soft.

  7. That was a great win for Connacht today in the Railway Cup final!

    Connacht 2-19 Ulster 1-07

    It was great to see a Mayo man Aidan O’Shea captain the team and raise the cup into the air. It was Connacht’s first win since 1969. It will be interesting to see the reports on this game to see how the Mayo lads played.

  8. Paddy Power’s odds (today) for the All-Ireland Club Final

    St Vincents 4/7
    Castlebar Mitchels 7/4
    Draw. 15/2

    I respectfully suggest we leave the odd-on Dubs to grow in-line with their high expectations.

    And more important we should allow Pat Holmes and Mitchels to do what they’ve been doing really well – preparing to win from a position they have found very comfortable since before the Corofin match – that of underdogs!

    Sure they’ve had one or two lucky breaks along the road and also a lu-la roulette ref against the Rossie lads, but you could say that only serves to make you feel their name is already destined for inscription on the Andy Merrigan Cup next month. Finally, TC to negate the great Mossy like no one has done so far this year! So maybe quietly consider taking Paddy Power up on their odds.

  9. That’s great news!

    Well done to Aido and the boys. Always good to beat the Northern lads with a strong team out in a Final.

  10. Fair play to Connacht on a big win today in Interprovincial. Its the first time since 1969 that this title has come west. Big Mayo representation too with A O Shea captain ably assisted by J Gibbons at midfield. Rob Hennelly got 0 3 Keith Higgins 0 2 K McLoughlin 0 3 and M Conroy 1 1 so that’s a great return. Some people may not rate this competition but well done to those involved. In the 1990s Ulster began to take this competition seriously and it coincided with their domination of the All Irelands. Who knows what next.

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