RENEWING ACQUAINTICES Castlebar Mitchels Danny Kirby and Corofin goalkeeper Bernard Power clash during last year’s Connacht semi-final game. The clubs face off for the fourth time in five seasons on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
THREE times in the last five seasons these two giants of Connacht football have clashed, with Castlebar Mitchels edging those duels 2-1.
But don’t be fooled, because in next Sunday’s Connacht Senior Club Championship final – the latest chapter in this blockbuster franchise – Mitchels face an almighty task if they want to heighten that record.
The Galway champions are also the reigning Connacht champions and are a favoured 8/15 in the bookies compared to Castlebar’s outsider odds at 15/8.
Declan Shaw and Declan O’Reilly’s side approach their third Connacht final in five years surrounded by doubt after a less than spectacular route to this stage of the competition.
That feeling of doubt comes solely down to the fact that they have failed to reach the performance heights of the last two years when they were dismantling sides in style, yet they still progressed to next Sunday relatively unscathed and untested.
That tag of being ‘written off’ will surely add fuel to the Castlebar fire, one that is yet to burst into flames, but the chance to redeem themselves for their 0-17 to 0-14 defeat (aet) in the Connacht semi-final last year increases that hope.
Last year, Castlebar tried everything they knew to get it done, but ultimately the toll of playing six championship games in as many weeks went against them, and Corofin were just that bit too good on the day.
One year previous saw Mitchels win their second Connacht title in three years with a commanding 2-10 to 0-11 victory over the then reigning All-Ireland champions. Mitchels, incredibly, were priced at 3/1 to win that day, later installed by Paddy Power as 2/1 favourites to win the All-Ireland, so the bookies do get it wrong from time to time.
The first of that trilogy was in 2013, with Mitchels, again, tearing up the script and edging Corofin by 2-8 to 1-10 in Tuam. On that day, Richie Feeney and Tom Cunniffe were the stand out performers and helped Castlebar qualify for their first Connacht Final in 20 years.
But those two, along with a number of other experienced members of the Mitchels army have since left the panel, which may have something go to do with their dip in form this year.
Next Sunday, Mitchels success lies heavily on the influence their big name players such as Barry Moran, Paddy and James Durcan, Neil Douglas, Danny Kirby and Ger McDonagh have. Whilst David Stenson’s accuracy in front of the posts is showing no signs of slowing down, the recent return to form of Douglas look encouraging from a Castlebar perspective.
Corofin remain much the same side as what we’ve seen previous. Garry Sice, Liam Silke, Ian Burke and Michael Farragher are still pulling the strings, whilst Galway’s All Star hurling full back Daithi Burke remains a serious addition coming off the bench.
The word around both counties would make you believe that both these teams have taken a step-back in terms of their progression. Both don’t tell them that.
Next Sunday we’ll find out who has taken the bigger step.
Connacht senior Club FC Final
Castlebar Mitchels v Corofin
Sunday, November 26
Tuam at 2pm