MAKING A BURST Castlebar Mitchels’ Tony Sweeney tries to break a few Tooreen tackles during Sunday’s Mayo Senior Hurling Championship Final at MacHale Park, Castlebar. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Castlebar Mitchels 1-13
ON a day when the clouds danced in the distance with the top of Nephin and showers and sunshine did their own tango across the western landscape, Tooreen captured the three in a row — but not before surviving a strong and resolute challenge from Castlebar Mitchels who battled with great courage to the final whistle.
Tooreen entered this showdown as strong favourites but they had to draw on every ounce of heart and courage to repulse a Castlebar side that made a mockery of their heavy defeat to the same opposition in the early rounds of the campaign.
The champions were worthy winners but had to endure a tense closing two minutes after Padraig O’Flynn (no relation of the legendary ‘Pee’ Flynn of Castlebar fame!) made a perfect connection with a speculative long range strike from Bernard Kennedy for a sensational goal that cut the margin to two points.
A Tooreen side that appeared to be on the cusp of victory were suddenly forced to defend in a tense and gripping finish, and it took two timely clearances by young John Cassidy to avert danger and eventually guarantee that the TJ Tyrell Cup would be heading across the rural roads of east Mayo to the village of Tooreen again.
Tooreen manager, Paul Hunt, was pleased to hear the final whistle after the late scare. “Castlebar brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the game today and they put in a serious performance. I was happy with the commitment our lads brought to the game. We’re happy to have retained the TJ Tyrell Cup again and we look forward to our Connacht semi-final clash with Four Roads in Athleague the weekend after next.”
Fears that this might be a one-sided encounter diminished as Castlebar trailed by just a point, 0-4 to 0-3, at the end of the first quarter. Andrew Butler and Corey Scahill were on target for Castlebar with the lively Shane Boland raising two white flags at the other end.
The first flash of the natural brilliance of Tooreen in full flight manifested itself moments later when Mayo dual player Fergal Boland flashed over a wonderful point after a lighting attack featuring Seán Regan and Kenny Feeney. Shane Boland followed up with a converted free.
At the other end James Gallagher, a livewire in the Castlebar attack all through the game, was denied a goal by Stephen Lenehan who brought off a fine save and deflected the ball out for a ’65 which Corey Scahill converted to leave just a point between the teams.
Tooreen responded in the fashion of champions with top class scores from Fergal Boland, Kenny Feeney and Seán Kenny to move them three clear again.
The resilient nature of Castlebar came to the surface when James Gallagher availed of an instinctive decision by Padraig O’Flynn to place a shot from a free in his path and dissect the posts.
Gallagher later provided a perfect delivery to Andrew Butler as Castlebar cut the gap to the minimum. However, two converted frees by Shane Boland saw Tooreen hold a 0-10 to 0-7 interval lead.
Castlebar had surprised almost all by their buoyant nature with impressive displays from Seánie Mulroy, Tony Sweeney, goalkeeper Martin Parsons, Conor Murray, Joe and Andrew Butler, Corey Scahill, James Gallagher, Bernard Kennedy and Darren McTigue.
Tradition runs deep in Tooreen and the wearers of the blue and white were well aware that one of the founders of the club back in 1957, Michael Henry, had made the journey over from England.
Such things inspire feelings deep in the soul and the lads sparkled in the first ten minutes of the second half as if saying ‘thanks, Michael, for what you and all since then have brought to us as a people’. His nephew, Conor Henry, was carrying the tradition in style and Michael had to be proud of that special link.
Seán Kenny set the pace with a magnificent strike from out near the McHale Road sideline. Two more from Shane Boland, one from Seán Kenny, saw Tooreen move seven clear.
Tooreen had everything in their favour at this stage with David Kenny in sparkling form in the half-back line and Gary Nolan and Stephen Coyne much to the fore as well. Fergal and Shane Boland, Seán Kenny and Seán Regan were moving well, and it looked as if they would pull clear in style, especially after two marvellous points from Cathal Freeman and Seán Regan.
Converted frees by Corey Scahill, coupled with a fine score from James Gallagher who was denied a goal following a brave deflection by Michael Morley, kept Castlebar in touch.
Liam Lavin, sprung from the bench, hit a sweet strike for Tooreen before Andrew Butler was on target from a free to leave five between them as the match entered time added on. Soon afterwards came O’Flynn’s late goal but Tooreen held out for a deserved victory to win their 30th county senior title.
Castlebar manager and Borris-in-Ossory native, Denis Egan, said he was immensely proud of the display of the lads on the day. “They showed great character when under pressure and we were there right to the last puck of the match. We can hold our heads high and all associated with the team are very proud of them. This display will give them memories to cherish in the years ahead.”
THERE were several contenders for this accolade from both teams, but Seán Kenny shaded the verdict after another highly impressive display.
S Lenehan; G Nolan, M Morley, J Cassidy; C Henry, S Coyne, D Kenny; D Huane, C English; S Kenny (0-4, 2f) , F Boland (0-3), S Regan (0-1); S Boland (0-7, 5 frees), K Feeney (0-1), Eoin Delaney.
Subs used: C Freeman (0-1) for C English, L Lavin (0-1) for E Delaney, D Harrison for K Feeney, C Finn for D Ruane.
M Parsons; S Mulroy, J Lowe, J Butler; T Sweeney, P O’Flynn (1-0), B Kennedy; S Nugent, C Murray; A Butler (0-3, 1f), C Scahill (0-7, 5f, 1 65), K Keena; D McTigue, J Gallagher (0-3), L Mullins.
Subs used: A Gavin for K Keena, A O’Suillebháin for L Mullins, K Horan for J Butler.
Referee: M Herr (Crossmolina)