YOUNG GUN Ballintubber's Diarmuid O'Connor is pictured in action against Castlebar Mitchels in the 2014 Mayo SFC Final.Pic: Sportsfile
A LOOK through the two starting teams from the 2010 Mayo SFC final shows just how much Ballintubber and Castlebar Mitchels have been able to reinvent themselves to stay at the top of the Mayo club scene.
Of the 39 players who featured in that final seven years ago, only 16 of those featured in the clubs’ semi-final wins in the past week.
Castlebar have had the greater turnover. From their starting team in 2010, only six are still involved – Eoghan O’Reilly, Donie Newcombe, Danny Kirby, Aidan Walsh, Barry Moran and Neil Douglas.
Of their four subs used in the 2010 final, Ger McDonagh is the solitary player still featuring. So that’s 12 out of 20 players to feature in the 2010 decider no longer featuring.
Gone from the starting team are goalkeeper Ciarán Naughton, brothers Richie and Alan Feeney, Pat Kelly, Ronan Burke, midfield duo Shane Fitzmaurice and Darragh Sloyan, Niall Lydon and Tom Cunniffe.
Subs Eamon Tiernan, Eamon Kennedy and Fergal Durkan are no longer involved either, although Tiernan features for the club’s Intermediates.
Add to that list Kevin Filan who was suspended for that final and now also plays with the club’s Intermediates. That’s a lot of quality to replenish.
Mitchels’ star man these days is, arguably, Paddy Durcan. The Mayo man had just turned 16 by the time the 2010 final came around while corner-back this year Johnny Maughan was still in national school in 2010.
Other young cubs have come through the ranks since too like James Durcan (twin brother of Paddy), Cian Costello, David Stenson and Shane Irwin, while more experienced players like Ray O’Malley and Shane Hopkins have broken through.
Ballintubber have not seen as many players depart in that time but they have still reinvented themselves considerably.
Indeed, like Mitchels, one feature of many of the Ballintubber players of 2010 is that when no longer able to commit or make the senior side, how many of them have played Junior football with the club. A real hallmark of a dedicated clubman.
Of Ballintubber’s starting team in the 2010 final, eight of them featured in their semi-final win over Claremorris while two of their subs used seven years ago are also still involved.
So that’s ten of the 20 players to play in the 2010 final still featuring.
Defenders Gary Loftus and Cathal Hallinan are still permanent fixtures (though Hallinan is an injury doubt for Sunday). Their midfield duo in 2010 remarkably remains the same – Jason Gibbons and Danny Geraghty.
Their forward line shows considerable consistency. Alan Dillon, Alan Plunkett and brothers Padraig and Cillian O’Connor each started in the 2010 decider and in last week’s win over Claremorris.
Two subs who featured in 2010 who are established starters now are goalkeeper Brendan Walsh and wing-back Damien Coleman. Walsh came on in the first half of that final for injured goalkeeper Noel Gibbons.
One more player who played in that final in 2010 who could yet feature on Sunday is Ruaidhrí O’Connor. The flamboyant wing-back was unable to commit earlier in the year due to work commitments but has rejoined the panel in recent weeks.
Four more of the men of 2010 played junior this year – Tom Earley, Gary Dillon, Declan Larkin and Damien McGing.
John Feeney, captain in 2010, and Tommy Kilcoyne have retired while Paul Earley and Michael Nestor have emigrated.
Noel Gibbons, who suffered a serious leg injury in the first half of the game, is currently based in Dublin.
Similar to Mitchels, Ballintubber have been able to rejuvenate their ranks in the intervening period to compensate for such losses.
Nineteen-year-old Stephen O’Malley was the star of the show in the semi-final, kicking 2-5 from play against Claremorris.
Other players to come through from underage in the meantime include Brian Murphy, Michael Plunkett, David Clarke, Joe Geraghty, Stephen Finnerty and one Diarmuid O’Connor.
Unused subs in 2010 who have forced themselves into the reckoning since include Myles Kelly and Ray Geraghty while Stephen Broderick has been a good addition since transferring from Westport.
Two more young colts who would likely be playing but for injury are Brian Walsh and Conor Finnerty.
No doubt success in recent years for both clubs has been an inspiration for many of the younger players coming through.
Success, it would appear, does indeed breed success.