Favourites’ tag holds no bother for Castlebar Mitchels

The bookmakers may have installed Castlebar Mitchels as odds-on favourites to win their first All-Ireland Club football title today, but the Mayo champions are not overburdened by that weight of expectation.
Favourites’ tag holds no bother for Castlebar Mitchels

“I don’t have a concern [about being favourites], it’s just another facet that we have to deal with,” says joint manager Declan O’Reilly.

“We’ve already discussed it, there’s a reason that we’re favourites, it’s because of the manner we’ve got here. It’s because of the teams we’ve beaten and the way we’ve played. That brings us to an All-Ireland final as favourites.

“The plight of other club and county teams from Mayo, all of whom we supported, is not our fight. Our fight now is Castlebar Mitchels versus Ballyboden St Enda’s.

“When we take to the pitch the only thing that matters is, can we collectively and individually win that match? That’s all we’re focused on.”

Only two clubs from Mayo have managed to win the Andy Merrigan Cup — Crossmolina in 2001 and Ballina Stephenites four years later. Garrymore, Knockmore, and Castlebar themselves (twice) have all come up short on previous occasions, with Mitchels’ memories of their 2014 defeat to St Vincent’s still raw.

O’Reilly understands what is at stake for a county with catalogue of bad memories at GAA headquarters.

“It’s about winning. Finals are all about winning. I don’t believe in the mantra, ‘It’s another game in another pitch in another team’. It’s an All- Ireland final.

“It’s there to be embraced and enjoyed, and for us to go at it.

“It’ll be down to our fundamental basic skills, our game-plan, sticking to our task, playing our own game. It’s about us turning up and playing our own game, and if we do that, we have every chance.”

O’Reilly and his old Mitchels’ team-mate Declan Shaw (who played in the 1994 decider defeat to Nemo Rangers) were only appointed as joint managers of their home club at the beginning of last season.

Despite losing their first two league matches, Castlebar are unbeaten in their last 24 outings and are now just 60 minutes away from realising their dream.

“For the ultimate accolade, we have to win,” says O’Reilly.

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