Bloody hell, I didn’t see that coming. Castlebar Mitchels went into this afternoon’s All-Ireland club final as strong favourites but they emerged from it broken and beaten, losing to Dublin and Leinster champions Ballyboden St Enda’s by a margin of thirteen points.
Everything that could go wrong for Mitchels today did go wrong. After fluffing a few early chances to get the scoreboard moving, Castlebar were carved open for a goal at the other end that came decidedly against the run of play. Following this unexpected setback, Mitchels appeared to lose their nerve, with players fumbling the ball, taking the wrong option with it or simply giving it away. For all the world, they looked like a team with a bad dose of stage fright.
The first Ballyboden goal wasn’t fatal but the second one, which came from the penalty spot after fifteen minutes, certainly was. Nine down now and nothing on the board themselves, there really was no way back for the Mayo lads from such a nightmare start.
Despite this, Castlebar had plenty of chances to eat into this lead in the second quarter but a succession of shocking wides saw several opportunities squandered. Further scoring chances were wasted by repeated unsuccessful attempts to work the ball into goal-scoring positions when the more sensible option would have been to take the points on offer. As a result, by half-time all Castlebar had managed to do was to chip a solitary point of that early nine-point deficit.
The second half saw the contest amble on towards its depressing denouement. Mitchels’ heads went down long before the end and Ballyboden proceeded to cut loose in the closing moments, effortlessly banging over a number of scores to stretch their final winning margin to thirteen points.
There’s little more to be said about a day that proved, sadly, to be one from hell for Castlebar Mitchels. Redemption for 2014 ended up instead as a second dose of All-Ireland final misery, a defeat that the players, their families, management and supporters will feel keenly. Commiserations to them for what was, in every sense, the toughest day imaginable.