Photo: Inpho Photography
They may have gone into this afternoon’s Connacht SFC club final at Tuam Stadium against Corofin as underdogs but a hugely committed performance by Castlebar Mitchels saw them dethrone the defending Connacht and All-Ireland champions, claim the Shane McGettigan Cup for the second time in three years and end the day as the new favourites to win the club All-Ireland. Not a bad day’s work on a cold November afternoon.
I watched this one on the box but could almost feel the cold from Tuam, where the playing surface looked hard and unforgiving, with the grass decidedly on the long side. A low winter sun cast a steely glare across the pitch as the champions of Galway and Mayo did battle for provincial spoils and a place in the All-Ireland semi-final next year.
Corofin’s modus operandi on their way to winning the Andy Merrigan Cup earlier this year was typically to claim the upper hand early on and dictate terms from there. It was, then, vital for Mitchels to get a good start in today’s contest and an eighth minute goal from Barry Moran gave them what they wanted in this respect.
A point from play from way out by Barry Moran put the challengers four clear with just over halfway gone in the opening period. From then till the break, though, it was Corofin who enjoyed the best of the exchanges and it looked a bit ominous that they’d pulled level when the half-time whistle sounded.
So Mitchels still had it all to do in the second half but they did it in fine style. It was toe-to-toe for the first ten minutes or so after the break but then Neil Douglas swung over a peach of a point and followed this up by smashing home a glorious goal.
The champions were really on the ropes now and although Martin Farragher cut the gap back to three soon after he then picked up a second yellow for a stupid foul. Down to fourteen, Corofin’s cause was then further undermined when Micheal Lundy was ordered off on a black card.
Corofin needed goals – two of them to be precise – to rescue their cause but they never came close to getting the ball in the Castlebar net. As the clock ran down, the Mitchels lads visibly grew in confidence as they eased home on a 2-10 to 0-11 scoreline.
Well done to Castlebar on winning their fourth Connacht club title, a win that makes them the most successful Mayo club in the competition and which hoists them to joint third (tied with St Brigid’s) in the competition’s roll of honour. It’s also a victory that sees Mayo sides take a clean sweep of all three provincial club championships this year.
Mitchels can now look forward to an All-Ireland semi-final appearance next February. This will be against either Armagh’s Crossmaglen or Scotstown from Monaghan, and while either of these will be tough to beat, the new Connacht champions will surely now also be turning their thoughts towards a possible return to Croke Park on Patrick’s Day next year.