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Castlebar Mitchels tear up the script

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Castlebar tear up the script


Semi-Final
Castlebar 2-8
Corofin 1-10

Mike Finnerty
Tuam

NEITHER side had anything left to give when the final whistle sounded, but Castlebar Mitchels made sure to savour the moment before turning their attentions to ‘Game Eight’ as they have labelled the Connacht Club Final against the reigning All-Ireland champions, St Brigid’s.
The Mayo standard-bearers are still standing, and the way in which they coped with adversity against a formidable Corofin outfit, not to mention the football they produced to win this semi-final, would suggest that Brigid’s would be well advised to tread carefully.
The element of surprise may be gone for Castlebar on the back of this victory, but the mental fortitude that they showed to recover from a five-point deficit after fourteen minutes was admirable; while the panache and confidence that underpinned their barnstorming second quarter burst was hard to miss too.
Goals from man of the match Richie Feeney and Niall Lydon in the 17th and 21st minutes adorned Castlebar’s best spell of attacking football in the game, but their defensive display was the bedrock upon which this ambush was built.
Apart from the first fifteen minutes, when Corofin threatened to cut loose and the Mitchels were chasing shadows, Castlebar’s defensive set-up and system was as good as it gets in these types of challenging conditions.
With the wind and rain battering Tuam Stadium all day, Pat Holmes’ charges rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in.
That was their intention beforehand anyway, but after falling 1-3 to 0-1 behind by the end of the first quarter, they had no option but to put their shoulders to the wheel.
Corofin started as they meant to go on, and the lively Gary Sice stole in behind his man to gather a long delivery and slam in an eighth minute goal. Three points flew over too and Stephen Rochford’s team seemed primed to run riot.
It was a matter of ‘fight or flight’ for the Mitchels.
With Eoghan O’Reilly setting the tone at centre-back with his abrasive approach and ‘up and at them’ style, the likes of Donie Newcombe, Tom Cunniffe and Alan Feeney didn’t need much encouragement to join in.
Newcombe deserves much of the credit for the move that led to Richie Feeney’s ‘lifeline’ goal; the captain showing commendable patience to find a gap in the Corofin cover, before Barry Moran and Ray O’Malley combined in to set up Feeney’s close-range finish.
Four minutes later and Castlebar hit the net again, as Newcombe’s shot for a point, after another lung-bursting run, came back off the crossbar and Niall Lydon slammed the rebound to the net.
Things changed, changed utterly from there on in.
Tom King clipped over his third free of the half to double Castlebar’s lead, before the talented James Durcan swung over a delicious point to end the half’s scoring.
Mitchels led by 2-4 to 1-5, and the tide had turned.
Corofin’s best forward, Gary Sice, fired over a point from play after the restart to keep things interesting, but Castlebar’s response spoke volumes about their mindset.
They rattled off three points in five minutes to open up some real daylight; the in-form Tom King converting a free and gunning a superb score from play, with Ray O’Malley landing an inspirational point from long-range in between.
At that stage it was Castlebar’s game to lose.
Surprisingly, they only managed one further point in the last twenty-four minutes as a Corofin side that were still being hassled and harried from pillar-to-post gave chase.
Aside from one Tom Cunniffe clearance off the line, the North Galway lads never looked like getting the goal they needed. Instead, they had to make do with four points from frees in the last twenty minutes from Ian Burke (3) and Gary Sice.
Castlebar’s defence in those late, frantic, closing stages was nothing short of heroic, and they backed each other up impressively. Ultimately, they got what they deserved.

Castlebar
C Naughton; D Newcombe, A Feeney, T Cunniffe; R O’Malley (0-1), E O’Reilly, P Durcan; A Walsh, B Moran; N Lydon (1-0), G McDonagh, N Douglas; J Durcan (0-1), R Feeney (1-0), T King (0-6, 5fs).
Subs used: S Hopkins for J Durcan; D Joyce for Douglas.

Corofin
T Healy; M Comer, P Kelly, A Lawless; B O’Donovan, G Higgins, L Silke; R Steede (0-1), K Comer; G Sice (1-3, 2fs), A O’Donovan (0-1, ’45), M Farragher; I Burke (0-4, 3fs), J Canney (0-1), R Burke.
Subs used: A Burke for O’Donovan; D Burke for R Burke; M Lundy for O’Donovan.

Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)


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