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Super Ger McDonagh makes the moment count


CHAMPAGNE FOOTBALL Castlebar Mitchels’ Ger McDonagh and his team-mates celebrate following their Mayo SFC Final win over Ballintubber last Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile

Mike Finnerty

WHEN the story of the 2017 Mayo SFC Final is being retold in years to come, the minute details of Ger McDonagh’s late brilliant point will surely stand the test of time.
Picture the scene: the match is level in injury-time, Mitchels have an extra man after Cillian O’Connor’s sending-off, and they are working the ball downfield, slowly and surely.
Castlebar’s ball-handlers are hoping that patience will be a virtue as they string some passes together, from one wing across to the other, just outside the Ballintubber 45m line.
McDonagh, who had spent the previous hour tailing and tackling the now-departed O’Connor, has been freed up a little and makes his way upfield.
He takes a pass here, gives a pass there, as Mitchels inch their way forward in their own time. The shooters like Neil Douglas and David Stenson and Danny Kirby are primed and ready.
Then McDonagh, who had scored just one point in Castlebar’s previous six championship games before Sunday, receives the ball, sees a gap, and decides to drive through it.
The rest is history, as he sets himself for an effort for a point, leans back, follows through, slips as he kicks the ball, but still watches it fly through the air and over the Ballintubber crossbar for the lead score.
Cue pandemonium in the stand as Castlebar hit the front with only minutes remaining, and go on to win a free that David Stenson converts to make the game safe.
Soon after, the final whistle sounds, and Mitchels have beaten Ballintubber for the first time in a County Senior Final.
Ger McDonagh, meanwhile, is both the man of the match and a Castlebar Mitchels’ action hero.
By the time Mayo GAA TV tracked him down, he was just soaking it all up. Happy out.
“It was helter-skelter, one hell of a game,” he beamed.
“Fair play to Ballintubber, they’re a fine side, we knew it was going to be a battle.
“For the point,” he adds, “we had patience, we worked the ball around, and I just saw a bit of a gap. . . I’m not known for scoring too many, I’ve been saving them for today possibly. .
“There’s no greater feeling than Rory [Byrne] collecting the cup and [me] collecting an award [man of the match].
“It’s a sweet, sweet victory today, it really is.”
McDonagh was there in 2010 and 2014 when Mitchels finished second best to Ballintubber and doesn’t need too much reminding about ‘the bad old days’ either when Castlebar couldn’t get out of Intermediate.
Having just won his fourth Mayo senior championship medal, he takes a moment to survey the changing landscape.
“Every year brings a new dynamic. Lots of players are there for a long time, we lost some players over the years, but a lot of good players have come in this year, some really great young players.
“Robbie Fallon, with the talent he has, I think he’ll play for Mayo. . Anthony O’Boyle, the talent is endless coming through there, we’re just setting the standard and bringing them on as best we can.
“It’s been fantastic, what a day.”
And then the talk turns to Castlebar’s plans for their celebration that night with An Sportlann, Ray’s and Mick Byrne’s surely all on the agenda.
“It’s going to be brilliant, the place is going to be rocking tonight,” smiled the Mitchels’ number three.
“This club has really struggled for a long time, we spent a few years down Intermediate, there are so many good people involved in the club, the community is really involved, there’s such a passion for Castlebar Mitchels around the place, it’s born-and-bred Castlebar.
“And this isn’t the end, we’re going to keep going.”

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