WHERE TO BEGIN? This riproaring Connacht club football final had virtually everything. Five goals, four red cards, extra time and comeback after comeback.
In the end it was Mayo champions Castlebar Mitchels who stood victorious to win their first Connacht title since 1993 and in the process dethroned the All-Ireland champions.
And while Roscommon champions St Brigid’s may quibble with many questionable refereeing decisions, they will probably realise that the best team on the day won.
A Senan Kilbride goal on seven minutes saw Brigid’s open up a five point lead, one they held at half-time, going in 1-6 to 1-1 in front, Danny Kirby hitting the net for the Mitchels.
It was the very least Brigid’s deserved after a dominant first half display but Castlebar came out for the second half a team transformed. In the first 13 minutes after the break they outscored Brigid’s by 2-5 to 0-1, the goals coming from a Neil Douglas penalty and a Richie Feeney close effort, both inspired by brilliant play from Alan Feeney and Tom King.
However, before either of those goals Mitchels midfielder Barry Moran was shown a straight red card by referee Marty Duffy for a mistimed tackle on Karol Mannion. Most observers considered it somewhat harsh.
But Brigid’s regained the ascendency and a Richie Blaine goal was the key score in an unanswered 1-4 burst as they turned a five point deficit into a two point lead.
But, again, Mitchels dug in for the battle. Neil Douglas pointed well from play on 60 minutes and in the fourth minute of injury time he converted a free after the excellent Tom King was fouled and we headed for extra-time.
St Brigid’s had to do so without Ian Kilbride who was sent off for fouling King in that last play of normal time. It appeared a strange decision.
Both teams started extra time with fifteen players but St Brigid’s full-back Darragh Donnelly was dismissed early in the first half of extra time after a goalmouth scramble when his shot was saved by Mitchels goalkeeper Ciaran Naughton and came back off the post.
Tom King put the Mitchels in front but Senan Kilbride replied with a free and the sides were level at the change of ends. But in the second half Mitchels outscored their opponents 0-4 to 0-0 to steer the path to victory.
Substitute James Durcan kicked the lead score and further points from Cian Costello, Danny Kirby and Durcan, again, made it safe.
Before that final score Brigid’s were reduced to 13 players, Richie Blaine dismissed for striking.
Donal Newcombe lifts the cup.
Pic: INPHO/Mike Shaughnessy
Scorers for Castlebar Mitchels: Tom King 0-6 (0-3f), Neil Douglas 1-2 (1-0pen, 0-1f), Danny Kirby 1-1, Richie Feeney 1-0, James Durcan 0-2, Neil Lydon 0-1, Cian Costello 0-1.
Scorers for St Brigid’s: Senan Kilbride 1-3 (0-2f), Frankie Dolan 0-6 (0-3f), Richie Blaine 1-0, Cathal McHugh 0-1, Padraig Kelly 0-1, Adrian Gleeson 0-1.
CASTLEBAR MITCHELS: Ciarán Naughton; Donie Newcombe, Tom Cunniffe, Alan Feeney; Ray O’Malley, Eoghan O’Reilly, Patrick Durcan; Barry Moran, Aidan Walsh; Neil Douglas, Tom King, Ger McDonagh; Neil Lydon, Danny Kirby, Richie Feeney.
Subs: Fergal Durkan for McDonagh (54), Shane Hopkins for Walsh (56), David Joyce for Moran (15th player extra time) James Durcan for O’Malley (70), Cian Costello for Lydon (77).
ST BRIGID’S: Shane Curran; Ronan Stack, Darragh Donnelly, Johnny Murray; Niall McInerney, Gearoid Cunniffe, Niall Grehan; Karol Mannion, Ger Ahern; Ian Kilbride, Garvan Dolan, Padraig Kelly; Frankie Dolan, Senan Kilbride, Cathal McHugh.
Subs: Adrian Gleeson for McHugh (29), Richie Blaine for G Dolan (half-time), G Dolan for McInerney (45), David O’Connor for Kelly (57), Robert Kelly for Ian Kilbride (15th player extra time), Padraig Kelly for Grehan (66), Mark O’Carroll for Karol Mannion (69), Shane Mannion for Curran (73).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).