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Castlebar’s ‘Red Army’ descends on Tuam

Sean Rice

Seán Rice

IT is all of 45 years since Castlebar Mitchels won the Mayo senior football title beating a young, promising Garrymore side.
No more that a few dozen followers greeted that 23rd victory in Charlestown, and in accepting the trophy, team captain Ray Prendergast excoriated those who benefited from their success but could not show enough interest to turn up at the final.
No such apathy was evident in Tuam on Sunday when Rory Byrne lofted the Shane McGettigan Cup into the November air. Several thousand townspeople had made their way to the Galway venue to salute a performance that has left no one in doubt about the ambition of this Mitchels squad.
Superbly organised as befits a team of the Mitchels tradition, the club has spared no effort in attending to the minutiae and the little welcome touches that tend to bolster performances on the field and raise the profile of the club in county and provincial circles.
Before the game on Sunday, former winning team members and their friends were accorded a reception in a Tuam hotel, a novel acknowledgement and appreciation of their past achievements.
No such attention to detail has been a memory of past success, and that live, earnest display of support was reflected in the team’s persistent, avid pursuit of victory.
From the moment Barry Moran planted the ball in the Corofin net in the ninth minute facilitated by the skill of Danny Kirby, any doubts harboured about the Mitchels’ purpose were dispelled.
Their nerve was truly tested by Corofin, who had gained parity by half-time with much less possession. But when at the end of the third quarter Neil Douglas spectacularly finished a lovely pattern of play begun by the matchless Moran in the middle of the field, victory was copper-fastened.
Moran led an array of scintillating performances that filtered not only through the 15 in action but also right through their bench. You could scarcely single out any one of the defenders (including goalkeeper and team captain Rory Byrne) for special praise. All were thoroughly convincing in winning possession, in their diligent tackling and insightful clearances.
Maybe Paddy Durcan – for the manner in which he outplayed Galway star Gary Sice, for the certainty he brought to everything he did, his steadily growing belief in his own ability – deserves mention.
But then all of them in their own corners had their own victories. And Barry Moran beautifully orchestrated the lot. Not just the Barry Moran of midfield familiarity, but in the awesome role he assumed when he moved into attacking positions.
So a job well done all round and a precursor, hopefully, to even brighter days ahead.

Will Aussies headhunt Aidan O’Shea?
THEY have left their chauvinism behind, and their game is the better for it. They came to play football, not to engage in the violent behaviour that marred past encounters.
The exciting outcome to Saturday’s International Rules series in which Ireland overcame Australia by four points has breathed new life into an old experiment in which brawn seemed a more important qualification than brain.
The Australians have finally reasoned that by selecting their most committed players and concentrating on the rules of the game rather than on physical prowess, they can compete with Ireland.
As a compromise of the best features of Gaelic football and Australian Rules, it has – after decades of experiments – still the appearance of an evolving hybrid game with little about it this writer could recommend.
Its one saving grace is the centre stage opportunity it affords top-class Gaelic footballers of counties rarely seen in the spotlight. Talent confined to the shadows is given a chance to shine. In the final minutes on Saturday some of that flair exceeded that of the recognisable stars.
Victory would not have been achieved of course without the experience of the familiar names. Our own Lee Keegan, the team’s vice-captain, and Aidan O’Shea contributed enormously to Ireland’s overall performance.
O’Shea’s impact was spectacular. The Breaffy man scored two of Ireland’s goals and reached aerial heights not even the vaunted skills of the Australians could match.
The danger now from a Mayo point of view is that O’Shea will be headhunted by some of the Australian football clubs, and the temptation to test that atmosphere will be strong.
Interest generally will have been renewed in the series by the intensity of the exchanges all through the 80 minutes, and the entertainment value in Australia’s late rally that Ireland just about managed to hold off. For this writer, though, the value of the game is zero.

Let Rochford get on with the job
LESS than six weeks away from their first game of the new season and Mayo are still without a team boss, the new manager-elect waiting in the wings for the nod from the powers that be.
A training programme has to be drawn up, his back-room team announced, introductions made, clear lines of communication established as the manager and the players get to know one another, get to share their respective philosophies, their plans for the season ahead and how they might work together to implement them.
That takes time, and there is not a lot of time left before Mayo embark on the FBD Connacht League in January. Other counties are well under way with their preparations for next season.
A considerable amount of time has elapsed since Stephen Rochford became the only applicant for the Mayo post, time he could have used attending to the important preliminaries.
A new manager needs time to bed in. But that constituent seems to hold less importance for the Mayo County Board than their determination to have in place before the new season commences some sort of players’ ‘charter’.
This so-called charter is a new idea stemming from the board’s disapproval of the players’ protest which gave rise to the resignation of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, last season’s men in charge.
It would appear to be a document demanding players to submit to some sort of contract to be of good behaviour before they don a Mayo jersey, demanding from them and future players an assurance that there will be no repetition of the action that forced Holmes and Connelly to resign.
If that is the aim of this so-called charter, I’m not so sure how it can be enforced. Is a player who disagrees with such a document precluded from selection ... irrespective of his talent? Does it prohibit genuine complaints against a manager who might have ‘lost the dressing room’?
Methinks an element of retribution might be at the root of any such development. An arbitrator linking board, management and players, a good liaison officer – trusted and carefully chosen – would surely obviate the need for whatever sort of document the board is now mulling.
It is past time Stephen Rochford was allowed to get on with the job of restoring much-needed confidence to Mayo football.

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