COUNTY CHAMPIONS The Castlebar Mitchels Under-17 football squad. Pic: Conor McKeown
THE joy of winning a Mayo Under-17 championship title was clearly evident in the voice of Russell Gibbons when he spoke to The Mayo News and described what it was like to manage Castlebar Mitchels to the prestigious title.
The West Mayo team completed the county league and championship double with a comprehensive win over Claremorris last Saturday evening in Bekan.
“We’re absolutely delighted to have won. This is a great group of lads and I’m delighted to see their hard work rewarded on the pitch. We knew we had to play at the very top of our game to get past a very talented Claremorris outfit and the lads produced a top-class display. “We knew nothing else would do. If we weren’t at our best we would have been beaten — simple as that. The lads showed great mental strength to produce their best football on the big day and I couldn’t be any happier for them,” the bainisteoir added before stating the importance that goals played in the winning and losing of the final.
“We knew Claremorris would get goals if given the opportunity. They only got one real chance but Mark Moore produced a great save to deny them. That’s the ups and down of sport right there I suppose; our goal chances went in and Mark kept out that one at the other end. If Claremorris had got a goal at that stage anything could have happened.
“We got a great start. Calum Filan’s goal after a minute or two gave us a great boost and we drove on from there. Claremorris found it hard to build up a head of steam and our backs were very good. They were very tight and our match-ups worked well, but it all came down to playing their best football on the day and that’s what the lads did” he added before saying how delighted he was to work with the new champions.
“I coached these lads when they were eight or nine up in the club on a Saturday mornings and always said I’d love to be involved with them again. It was a pleasure to work with them this year and I’m delighted to see them getting what they deserve. They ended up winning the league and championship and you can’t ask for any more than that.”
Minor grades debate
THE debate on whether the minor age grade should be Under-17 or Under-18 in the future has taxed the GAA minds of many across the nation, but Russell Gibbons believes there is only one answer to the question.
“I think it should go back to the way it was. The traditional Under-18 minor grade was ideal as far as I’m concerned. The lads were more mature in a football sense and the gap between minor and adult football wasn’t as big. Now, it’s a long way from the end of minor football to playing adult for your club and that’s not good for anyone.
“There is always a great tradition in winning the minor championship here in Mayo and when it was at Under-18 the cup was even special, it was like the Liam McCarthy. I would love to see it back at Under-18 again.”