SFC Group 4
Castlebar Mitchels 1-13
ON the opening day of a Mayo club championship season like no other, there were also some poignant reminders that sometimes the game is only part of the story.
These two teams served up a thrilling contest in the pouring rain at Fr O’Hara Park last Saturday evening before Mitchels’ experience finally tipped the scales in the closing stages as three late points from the Durcan brothers saw the visitors carve out a deserved win.
And when it was all over the two teams stood in the centre of the field, with both Castlebar manager Alan Flynn and their captain Paddy Durcan addressing the Charlestown group and paying their respects to the late Colm Horkan.
Durcan also made a presentation to Charlestown’s Gareth O’Donnell and Gerry McLoughlin on behalf of Castlebar Mitchels to mark the passing of the former Charlestown footballer, who died in such tragic circumstances last month.
All the while the number 11 jersey that Colm wore with distinction for so many years, and that has been retired for the duration of this season, hung proudly at the side of the pitch.
A symbol to remind all and sundry that he may be gone, but he is not forgotten.
As for the game itself, Mitchels didn’t pull up too many trees on their way to victory and racked up eleven wides during the course of a rain-soaked encounter.
A combination of the winners’ patchy performance and Charlestown’s stubborn persistence meant that there was only a point between the teams after 55 minutes.
But Mitchels steadied the ship in the last ten minutes with Paddy and James Durcan (2) using their pace and a direct approach to good effect to clip over the insurance scores.
The winners will also take solace from the fact that they managed to cope with some adversity on the evening; as they overcame the loss of Neil Douglas in the early stages, and also survived without the impressive Donie Vaughan down the home stretch after he pulled up with a hamstring problem.
An eye-catching championship debut from Ethan Gibbons was also a big positive, with the stylish corner-forward shooting 1-5, all of the points coming from well-struck frees.
Charlestown, meanwhile, will be looking to tighten up on the unforced errors and high number of scoreable frees they conceded ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Westport.
In truth, they played some really good football at times, especially in the first 20 minutes, and despite conceding a goal after only 180 seconds, the homeside were deservedly ahead by 1-4 to 1-1 when referee Vincent Neary blew for the first half water break.
Ethan Gibbons’ goal on three minutes had propelled the Mitchels into a three point lead but Charlestown came roaring back and rattled off 1-3 of their own in the space of six minutes to take the initiative.
The talented Paul Towey was at the heart of most of this good work, kicking all three of his side’s early scores, before he delivered a delicious pass to Paddy Goldrick which was cracked into the Castlebar net on 18 minutes.
Unfortunately, for the Sarsfields the water break came at the worst possible time as it killed their momentum completely. After the game restarted, Mitchels reeled off five points from Ethan Gibbons frees before half-time as Charlestown struggled to cope with Castlebar’s powerful runners who bombarded the heart of their defence.
By the short whistle, the pre-match favourites led by 1-7 to 1-5 and the tide had turned.
Mitchels continued to tip along in front during the third quarter, with points from Donie Vaughan and David Stenson pushing the gap out to three, but a litany of wides meant that they never put the locals away.
So when Jack Reilly smacked over a couple of scores (including one inspirational long-range effort) with five minutes of normal time left, nerves were starting to jangle.
That was when Mitchels got down to business again, with some of their big players making the big plays that saw them seal their first championship win over the hosts since 2011.
For Charlestown though, this was about more than just the game.
R Byrne; J Lawless, E O’Reilly, R O’Malley; D Newcombe, P Durcan (0-2), S Conlon; D Kirby, D Vaughan (0-1); C Stenson, J Durcan (0-3, 1f), P Ruddy; E Gibbons (1-5, 5fs), N Douglas, G Durcan.
Subs used: C Kyne (0-1) for Douglas (inj); D Stenson (0-1) for Ruddy; F Durkan for G Durcan; B Walsh for Vaughan (inj).
K Brennan; N Murphy, G McLoughlin, A Hopkins; C O’Donoghue, G O’Donnell, E McLoughlin; T Parsons, J Reilly (0-2, 1f); R Duffy, P Goldrick (1-2), M Lenehan (0-1); J Mahon, P Lenehan, P Towey (0-4, 2fs).
Subs used: T Meehan for Duffy; A Woods for Hopkins; C Maye for Mahon.
Referee: V Neary (Bonniconlon)