Castlebar end 20-year wait

Castlebar Mitchels’ 1-11 Breaffy 0-08
They say history is written by the winners so Castlebar Mitchels’ version of events will be the definitive account of a Mayo SFC final that was spoiled by the weather, but lacked nothing in terms of intensity, excitement and honest-to-goodness endeavour.

A good start, which yielded the only goal of the game from Danny Kirby, and a flying finish that saw Castlebar tag on three late points turned out to be the most significant moments in the end.

Breaffy, who were appearing in their first county senior final, gave as good as they got for long periods but were always playing catch-up after Kirby’s early strike.

They also struggled to make any major inroads against Castlebar’s well-organised defensive system, and just one point in the last quarter underlined their offensive shortcomings.

The game itself is unlikely to live long in the memory of the purists, but that won’t unduly bother Castlebar Mitchels this week as they bask in the glory of their first Moclair Cup success in 20 years.

The former aristocrats of Mayo club football, who are second only to Ballina Stephenites on the county’s senior roll of honour, dug deep to reclaim the title on a wretched day for football.

Breaffy, to their credit, made a game of it from pillar to post despite their lack of county final experience, but the Mitchels used their experience wisely, and showed admirable grit and determination to close out the contest down the home straight.

In fact, it took three points in the last four minutes from substitute Shane Hopkins, man of the match Tom King, and Neil Lydon to make the game safe.

It wasn’t the perfect performance from the winners — a missed penalty from Neil Douglas in the sixth minute and a dozen wides blotting their copybook — but they still had too much firepower for Declan O’Reilly’s gallant outfit.

An opportunistic goal from Danny Kirby on nine minutes, after he pulled on a loose ball that was bobbling around in front of Robbie Hennelly’s goal, was the perfect tonic to the missed spot-kick moments earlier.

With the gale-force wind and heavy showers at their backs, Castlebar had engineered a 1-6 to 0-4 lead by the change of ends.

Mayo midfielder Barry Moran, who was nursing an injured hamstring in the lead-up to the game, showed no ill-effects of his recent lay-off, particularly during the first half. Twice he escaped the attentions of Breaffy’s O’Shea brothers to loft over inspirational long-range points (one from each wing).

The incisive Tom King, who had lined out with Mervue Utd in a League of Ireland play-off match on Friday night, also posted a couple of good scores while James Durcan and Niall Lydon both hit the target with aplomb to underline Castlebar’s scoring threat.

At the other end, Breaffy were finding the going tough against both the strong breeze and Castlebar’s well-drilled defence where Tom Cunniffe, Richie Feeney and Patrick Durcan were all on the front foot.

Their only score from play in that opening period came from Seamus O’Shea while three frees from Alan Durcan (two) and Liam Irwin kept the scoreboard moving, slowly but surely.

With darkness falling earlier than expected, the floodlights were switched on for the second-half and the game deteriorated into an arm wrestle. Despite playing with the elements, by the end of the third quarter they had only pared a couple of points off the deficit as All-Ireland winning Mayo minor, Liam Irwin, landed a couple of his trademark long-range efforts.

There was no shortage of effort from Declan O’Reilly’s team, with the O’Sheas leading the charge, but Breaffy lacked the guile to score the goal they needed.

Instead, all they could manage in the last 16 minutes was an Alan Durcan pointed free as Mitchels weathered the storm to win their 28th Mayo SFC crown.

Castlebar will now meet Galway champions Corofin in the Connacht SFC club semi-final on Sunday, November 10.

CASTLEBAR: C Naughton; A Feeney, T Cunniffe, E O’Reilly; R Feeney, P Durcan, D Newcombe; A Walsh, B Moran (0-2); N Lydon (0-2), N Douglas (0-1), G McDonagh; J Durcan (0-1), D Kirby (1-0), T King (0-4, 2fs).

Subs: S Hopkins (0-1) for McDonagh (38), F Durkan for J Durcan (45m), K Filan for Lydon (58m), D Joyce for Newcombe (60m).

BREAFFY: R Hennelly; K Scahill, C Kelly, D Gavin; M Hall, M Jennings, B Howley; A O’Shea, S O’Shea (0-1); G Jennings, T O’Reilly, R Martyn; L Irwin (0-3, 1f), A Durcan (0-4, 4fs), M McNicholas.

Subs: B Jordan for Kelly (38), C O’Shea for O’Reilly (42), E Conroy for McNicholas (45), P Collins for Howley (58m).

Referee: L Devenney (Ballina).

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