NOT entirely what we had expected. As the rhythm of runaway success inside the county faded, traces of old vulnerabilities outside it commence to surface. Suddenly, the Mitchels looked ordinary enough as a young Clann na nGael side asked awkward questions of them at Hyde Park.
From brilliant forward movements in the first half to a puzzling loss of shape after the break, the favourites stumbled through the latter stages of the game trying to counter the zeal of a Clann na nGael side given no chance.
Maybe it had all to do with the undisputed achievements of the Mitchels in Mayo, and the word circulating that Clann offered no serious threat. Maybe they had it too easy in Mayo, and when they drove the ball into the Clann net twice in the opening three minutes they began to believe too much in their own invincibility.
Whatever it was, they were in disarray in the second half and it took sterling performances from the likes of Paddy Durcan, Danny Kirby and Tom Cunniffe to rescue a game that seemed secure at half-time.
With minutes remaining, goalkeeper Rory Byrne and corner back Cunniffe salvaged the Mitchels’ aspirations with two daring saves from the boot of Ultan Harney as Clann pressed irrepressibly. A goal then might have sparked off the shock of the season.
It was all so different in the first half when against the strong wind Castlebar’s experience threatened to overwhelm the new Roscommon champions. They won all the breaks, played the wings cutely, supported every move and drilled in a few goals with unquestionable authority.
Richie Feeney had their first inside the first minute, cleverly placed by Kirby from a quick free. Two minutes later Barry Moran scrambled the ball into the net, Ray O’Malley, Shane Hopkins and Richie Feeney all involved.
Kirby had their third in the 22nd minute, the move begun with Moran’s quickly taken free, the ball transferred to Kirby via Feeney and Niall Lydon.
They were seven points ahead at that stage unconcerned by Clann’s gradual accumulation of points from frees by Donie Shine. Just four separated them at the break. It might have been more but for a brilliant save by goalkeeper Ronan O’Reilly from Paddy Durcan.
When all around them were losing their grip after the break, Durcan was the pillar of the Mitchels’ performance. The wing-back’s determined, aggressive attacking showed the way. His point at a crucial stage in the second half was a lesson in courage and confidence.
Only Danny Kirby, whose sustained excellence was vital when he moved back into defence in the second half, equalled Durcan’s performance. Castlebar were then visibly and inexplicably drained of energy, unable to sort out the problems created by Clann’s resurgence and the growing danger posed by the combined efforts of sub Cathal Callinan, Donie Shine and Ultan Harney.
For some reason Rory Byrne was unable to get his first half distance into his second half kick-outs when he had the help of the wind. Whether that was due to the underfoot conditions around the goalmouth I’m not sure, but it was an advantage for Clann.
Breaffy mourns a club legend
THE sudden death of Vincent Jordan has stirred memories of a family of footballers who graced the fields of Breaffy with distinction and for many years were the heartbeat of the club.
Older brothers Paddy, Mickey and Johnny were stars of the club’s infancy, steering it proudly through its growing pains, through the difficult fifties and its dark shadows of emigration.
That family trait continued with club progress built around Vincent and Kevin who were pivotal members of the team for many years. Their qualities were also recognised in their selection on the Mayo senior side, Kevin as an outstanding half-back, Vincent as a tricky, talented corner forward.
Mayo football was struggling for recognition in the sixties when Vincent togged out for the county. He was a member of the side striving valiantly to rival Galway in the years they won three All-Ireland titles in a row.
They came close in 1966, with Vincent at corner forward. Galway were then defending the title they had won the previous two years. The Connacht final drew a crowd of over 30,000, many from outside the province expecting a classic.
It was all of that, a monumental test of nerve and sinew, decided in the end by a single point scored by Liam Sammon in injury-time. Having crossed that hurdle, Galway went on to win their third All-Ireland in a row. Mayo’s performance against them seemed to herald a new horizon . . . as their unsuccessful efforts since so often have.
It wasn’t Vincent Jordan’s finest hour. That came a few months earlier in a league match against the same opposition when he gave Bosco McDermott a roasting at corner forward, one of the few Mayo players to shine on that occasion.
He also scored one of Mayo’s four goals against Sligo in the Connacht semi-final, and was unlucky not to have collected a provincial medal in those years.
In comparison to the long football careers of his contemporaries, Ray Prendergast, John Morley, Joe Langan, Johnny Carey and John Gibbons, Vincent’s county calling was brief.
But not with Breaffy where, together with Kevin, he was the club’s leading light for so long and where his accomplishments are a treasured memory.
To his wife Beatrice and family we tender our deepest sympathy.
Mayo get most out of young O’Connor
THE omission of Diarmuid O’Connor from the nominations for the Mayo News Club Star awards would seem to be inconsistent with the honour conferred on him as national ‘Young Footballer of the Year’.
The truth is, though, that the young Ballintubber man played his best football throughout the season in the colours of the Green and Red.
Like some other Mayo stars whose clubs benefited less from their efforts than the county, Diarmuid’s Ballintubber did not see the best of his talents in the championship.
That does not diminish his ability as a hard-working forward who made a huge contribution to Mayo’s progress throughout the championship. To him and other younger members the new Mayo manager will look for the fervour and freshness to drive Mayo on next season.
The Club Stars nominations are based on club championship performances only. Individual exploits in the league or for the county are not taken into account.
To have been honoured nationally is a singular achievement for Diarmuid O’Connor. It is doubly significant in that his brother Cillian was similarly acclaimed in 2011 and 2012.
Accolades were also bestowed on two other Mayo men with their selection on the All-Stars fifteen. Lee Keegan won wing back position for the third year running and Aidan O’Shea, at full-forward, got his second All-Star.
The Westport man has also been named vice-captain of the Ireland International Rules side to play Australia.