There’s nothing quite like the build-up to an All-Ireland final in which your team is taking part, and while the mood around Mayo football isn’t currently at its best after last Sunday’s defeat to Kerry, the feeling around the streets of Castlebar is different. As Castlebar Mitchels approach the final hurdle and All-Ireland Club Final day looms, every shop and business has some form of Mitchels-themed decoration on display – Main Street is absolutely plastered with red and yellow and when the sun shines like it has been in the last couple of days, it’s a fantastic sight. Even the dogs of Castlebar are getting on board!
Pictured: A dog in a Castlebar Mitchels hoodie.
Upsetting the odds
In the past 3 years, this team has toppled some of the biggest names in club football, and have upset the odds while doing so. And when I say they upset the odds, I mean crazy odds like when they were 3/1 to beat Corofin in this year’s Connacht Final. A lot of people capitalised on it that day which made winning a second Connacht Title in 3 years that bit sweeter! In 2013/14, on the way to their All-Ireland Final appearance, the Mitchels defeated Corofin in Tuam, reigning All-Ireland Champions St. Brigids, and Kerry and Munster Champions Dr. Crokes. We came up just short in Croker, but this year they added Crossmaglen to the growing list in an incredible night in Breffni Park to give themselves another shot at the ultimate prize.
This squad is littered with talent, and I should clear something up. When I say they upset the odds, I am talking strictly bookmaker’s odds. I don’t know many Mitchels fans who are surprised at another All-Ireland Final appearance. There was always a feeling that winning the Mayo Senior Championship was a stepping stone to greater things.
On TG4 a few nights ago, former Cork Hurler Donal O’Grady predicted that Ballyboden would go on to win the title. That’s fine, of course it is. It’s an All-Ireland final and anything can happen in 60 minutes of high-intensity football. But his rationale for predicting a Ballyboden win, and I’m paraphrasing here, was because “Mayo teams freeze in Croke Park”. Maybe I’m over-reacting, but that is some seriously lazy, nauseating and frankly terrible analysis. You’d expect to see that in the comments section on a Facebook post, but certainly not on national television. But anyway, that’s beside the point!
On Thursday a couple of thousand will make the long trip east from Castlebar and I’m certain a few more will follow from other parishes, towns and villages all over the county. On my drive home from Claremorris from work every day I pass a sign just outside Breaffy wishing the Mitchels the best of luck in the final. That message comes from their closest neighbours and rivals. It’s great to see everyone rally behind the Mayo and Connacht representatives as indeed we all did when Hollymount-Carramore and Ardnaree Sarsfields took to Croker last month for the Intermediate and Junior finals. It wasn’t to be for them on the day but it was a massive year for Mayo club football with a hat-trick of Connacht titles and All-Ireland Final appearances. Hopefully, the boys from the county town can make it a bit more memorable and claim the Andy Merrigan Cup for the first time in their long and proud history.
Photo: Jarlath Cunningham. For more of Jarlath’s pictures, check out the Mitchels Facebook page. There are any amount of cracking shots from the journey so far this year.
Pride of place is a funny thing. For the last 6 months I have been working in Claremorris – a great town with great people. But it was still a necessity for me to nail my colours to the mast (or tie a small scarf thing on my computer monitor) at the office even though most people don’t really take notice! All in the hope that someone will call in and realise I’m from out of town and maybe talk to me about the match. I love driving home in the evening and I love coming back into the town where you can see red and yellow flags and bunting left, right and centre.
HA! That’ll show ye!
For me, it’s my hometown taking to the field on Thursday. It would be dishonest to claim that I was a clubman because, frankly, I’m not. They are the ones who put in the hard yards during the year on the training pitch, in the board rooms, selling programmes, teas, sandwiches and sweets during matches while everyone else enjoys the action. I go to all the Castlebar Mitchels games alright with my dad whether they are in town or across the country – The two days in Tuam beating Corofin, the day in the Hyde beating Brigids, Portlaoise for Dr. Crokes and the night in Cavan for Crossmaglen are some of my absolute best sporting memories. That is without even mentioning the Mayo Championship wins over Breaffy. But most of my free time is spent across the town at a different club – Castlebar Celtic – populated by yet another fine bunch of volunteers who love their club and their town. Most of the lads taking the field on Thursday have dawned the green and white hoops at some stage in their lives, and we even saw Shane “Hoppy” Hopkins parade the colours around after beating Crossmaglen!
And that’s because they are all of this town and they have represented it in many different forms, be it green and white or red and yellow. But this week it’s all about the red and yellow, it’s about our county town being in the national spotlight on our national day and for all the right reasons. Hopefully, that spotlight will continue into the night on the 17th. My gut tells me that it will.
H’on the Mitchels!
As you probably already know, being a season ticket holder has many advantages. It allows you free entry into any league match (code-specific). Season tickets also allow you free entry into the All-Ireland Club Finals between Corofin from Co. Galway and Slaughtneil from Co Derry on St. Patrick’s Day, (throw in is now 4pm). Corofin are managed by Mayo & Crossmolina’s own Stephen Rochford. We know that any Mayo vs Galway tie is sometimes the be all and end all between rivals, but on this occasion we hope all Mayo folk will give our Galway neighbours, and Connacht representatives, their support on St Patrick’s Day.
Mayo Club 51 are putting the call out to all season ticket holders if you are not using your tickets for the final, to help out Corofin supporters. First of all you will need to log-in to your season ticket account and go to “Special Purchases” to request your (free) tickets. You can e-mail tickets directly to the Corofin P.R.O. John Fahey, pro.corofin.galway [at] gaa.ie.
Season Tickets Account Home Screen.
You can order tickets up to the amount on your account. If you have 2 Adult and 3 Juvenile, then you can order 5 tickets. You can also change your Juvenile season tickets to Adult tickets (for special purchases only). Sections available are Cusack Stand Lower Tier – section 302 ( 302 only was available when I purchased my free tickets).
When purchased your tickets will be available in your “My Tickets” section in your account. You will not need to print your tickets, you can save and download them to your desktop.
Save or print season tickets.
Once you save and download your free tickets for the Club Finals on St Patrick’s Day in Croke Park, its then only a matter of attaching them in an e-mail to send to someone. All they need to do then is just print them out. If you can’t attend the match then do make use of your free season tickets and send them on to someone that will make use of them!
The Club Championship Connacht Final – MacHale Park, Sunday 23rd November
The club Championship Connacht final between Ballintubber (Mayo) and Corofin (Galway) throws in at 2pm this Sunday the 23rd November in Elverys MacHale Park. Ballintubber are bidding to win their first ever Connacht Club Championship against the more experienced Corofin, themselves five-time provincial and one-time All-Ireland winners It promises to be an intriguing encounter with Ballintubber showing fine form over their last few games and a calm, clinical confidence that belies their inexperience at this level.
The O’Connor brothers from Ballintubber.
The three O’Connor brothers Padraig, Diarmuid and Cillian will be looking to replicate the sharp-shooting form of previous games, with roving Ruaidhri in the half back-line. The formidable combination of midfield maestros Stevie Broderick and Jason Gibbons will be aiming to drive the team from the middle, and of course the experience of county stalwart Alan Dillon combined with his relentless workrate will mean that Ballintubber, having effectively dispatched St. Brigids of Roscommon in a thrilling display two weeks ago should have no lack of self-belief when taking to the field on Sunday, despite Corofin’s status as favourites.
The Galway side meanwhile are fresh from a 35-point annihilation of Leitrim’s plucky Aughawillan, with Galway senior Michael Lundy finding the net three times. This comes off the back of decisive rather one-sided wins in Galway versus Milltown and Salthill-Knocknacarra. It remains to be seen whether Corofin’s confidence off the back of such a run of emphatic victories will trump Ballintubber’s battle-hardened run to the final, but we’re sure as hell looking forward to finding out.
Sunday, 2pm, MacHale Park Castlebar – dig out your red jumpers and be there to cheer on our county champions in what has the potential to be a thrilling battle. Here’s how to get here.
Tickets- General Information
All patrons attending the Connacht GAA Club Football Championship Final may purchase their tickets in advance of the game.
Adult Tickets may be purchased through;
- Connacht GAA Centre, Cloonacurry, Bekan, Claremorris, Co. Mayo – 094-9630335. (Credit Card bookings accepted)
- Selected SuperValu & Centra stores in Mayo and Galway.
Centra Balla Mayo
Centra Belmullet Mayo
Centra Ballindine Mayo
Centra Crossmolina Mayo
Centra Newport Mayo
Centra Castlebar Mayo
SuperValu Claremorris Mayo
SuperValu Kiltimagh Mayo
SuperValu Castlebar Mayo
SuperValu Ballina Mayo
SuperValu Achill Mayo
SuperValu Ballinrobe Mayo
SuperValu Westport Mayo
Student & OAP tickets can be purchased on the Day. Free admission for all Juveniles. Tickets will be on sale at the venue from 12.45pm on the day of the game and supporters are advised to arrive early – gates are open from 1pm. View the Connacht GAA website for further details.
We hope too that the Connacht Council will ensure adequate staffing at the ticket booths and turnstiles in MacHale Park to prevent a repeat of the queues that snaked around the car park in Castlebar with minutes til throw-in two weeks ago, and also that they remember to bring a sufficient amount of programmes this time!
The very best of luck to the lads on Sunday from all at Club ’51- we’re hoping there won’t be cow milked within those 17 square miles until Monday morning. Baile An Tobair agus Maigh Eo Abú!
It’s been a quiet week on the Mayo GAA front. With all the recent drama, it’s probably no harm, and it feels like everyone is keeping their heads down and behaving themselves … although we get the feeling that’s only temporary … We ourselves have been taking a bit of time out, but are starting to resurface and plan for 2015. Watch this space for updates!
One of the great joys that comes with the end of the All-Ireland Championship is the ramping up of the club championships. Last Sunday saw Castlebar Mitchels beat Garrymore, and Ballintubber beat Knockmore in the Treanlaur Catering Senior Football Championship to set up another South Mayo final on 19th October. The day was notable in particular for the eleven-goal spectacle that was the latter game, which saw the four O’Connor brothers of Ballintubber, Padraig, Ruaidhri, Diarmuid and Cillian score six goals between them for their club (the latter with a hat-trick), thus sealing their inclusion in GAA table quiz questions for decades to come.
(Photo: Michael McLaughlin in The Mayo News)
Now that the Sunday Game is over, if you want a football fix you’ll need to head outdoors! And the good news is, there’s a triple-header of club football activity in Elverys MacHale Park this Sunday:
- 12pm: Swinford take on Westport in the Breaffy House Hotel & Spa Resort Junior B Final
- 2pm: Achill take on Castlebar Mitchels in the Breaffy House Hotel & Spa Resort Junior A Final
- 3.45pm: The Egan Jewellers Intermediate Championship Final sees Ballyhaunis clash with Hollymount/Carramore.
On the Ladies’ Football front, there’s also some club action on Saturday 4th October:
- Carnacon (Mayo) take on St. Patrick’s Dromahair (Leitrim) @ 2.30pm in Kilcoyne Park, Tubbercurry in the Tesco Connacht Senior Club Championship
- And on the minor side, C.L. McHale Rovers (Mayo) meet Mohill (Leitrim) @ 4.30pm in Kilcoyne Park, Tubbercurry.
For those of you who are Croke Park/GAA Mayo Season ticket holders, these are now open for renewals only. There are no new tickets available at this point, as Mayo supporters have bought up their full allocation of GAA season tickets; however, new tickets may (or may not) become available at a later date. You should have received an email reminding you to renew: if not, all the information is here. There has been a €10 increase in the price of the season ticket this year – no information on the reason behind the increase has been forthcoming from the GAA Season ticket office thus far.
In Club ’51 news, we are off to the Blog Awards Ireland tomorrow night where we are hoping we might take away some silverware. Cross your fingers for us (and for everyone else, ‘cos some of us are very poor losers indeed).
We also have a couple of competitions lined up for our readers over the coming weeks so keep an eye on our Facebook and twitter pages for news.
To keep the fires burning, we are looking for new contributors to write about all things Mayo GAA-related over the winter, so if you fancy adding your name to the list of guest posters and sharing a story or an article, please get in touch. Near and far, young and old, all welcome.
Route ’51 continues to clock up the miles as our flag is heading off to some of our exiles Down Under over the coming weeks – give us a shout if you’re based somewhere far-flung and would like to feature on the map (No, Roscommon doesn’t count).
And as always, if anyone would like to get involved with Club’ 51, or has any ideas for what we can do next year, drop us a line, we would love to hear from you.
Til next time,
The Club ’51 crew
Another inter-county season comes to a close, and Kerry are champions again. I’m not sure what to think of that to be honest, but it is what it is. It was a season of mixed emotions. Nerves, pride, anger, sadness – we had it all. But it’s behind us now. January just can’t come quick enough.
As we all know by now, Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes have been installed as the next management team to take our lads forward. There are also reports suggesting that Donie Buckley and Ed Coughlan are staying on in their positions. This would be a terrific boost and would add to some much-needed continuity for this side. We know the new managers Noel and Pat will represent us brilliantly like they did with many of the current group back in 2006 and we wish them all the luck in the world.
Yesterday’s game in Croke Park drew the curtain down on the 2014 season and while we didn’t land the main prize, our own Cillian “Not a Marquee Forward” O’Connor finished the season as top scorer for the second year in a row. That’s a terrific achievement for someone who was still playing U21 football last year! Well done Cillian. The second of many, I’m sure.
In Club ’51 news, we’re extremely proud to announce that we have made the finals of The Blog Awards Ireland 2014 in TWO separate categories: Best Sports Blog and Best Newcomer Blog. We are thrilled to bits and we want to thank absolutely everybody who has contributed to the site in any way since we kicked off in late December. We’d like to invite everybody and anybody to join us on the 4th October at the Westgrove Hotel, Clane, Co. Kildare for the main event. You can get tickets here. There is an 80s theme for the night too, so bring your best 80s Mayo clobber and we’ll have ourselves a right party!
There’s plenty of GAA action to keep us going this weekend, too. On Saturday at MacHale Park, Noel Connelly’s Hollymount/Carramore side take on Belmullet in the county intermediate semi-final replay (note, this game is NOT in Limerick) with Ballyhaunis awaiting the winners in the final. On Sunday, Mayo and Connacht Champions Castlebar Mitchels continue to defend their crown when they come up against Garrymore in the senior semi-final at 2pm and that’s followed by the second semi-final: a mouthwatering clash between Knockmore and Ballintubber.
That should bridge the gap nicely for another week at least, so get up to MacHale Park and enjoy the show!
In the meantime, we’re off to compile a list for our potential acceptance speech.
Well… Well, well, well… We see some familiar faces here today. Some welcome… Some not so welcome.
Enjoy the weekend!
The weekend ahead holds a veritable feast of sport, with one of the biggest days in the GAA club calendar, the AIB Club Championship Finals taking place in Croke Park on Monday (we’ll have lots more to say about that between now and then).
But before Castlebar Mitchels embark on proving themselves to be The Toughest, let’s turn our attention to the county scene, and what’s sure to be another memorable encounter. Sunday 16th March sees our first home double-header of the year with Mayo taking on Cork in the fifth round of Division 1 of the Allianz National Football League in McHale Park. Throw-in is at 2.30pm, and the game is preceded by the fourth round of Division 2B of the Allianz National Hurling League, which sees Mayo take on Wicklow at 12.45pm. We can happily confirm that the hurling clash has been moved back to McHale Park, after a decision made on Monday to move it to Tooreen (based on the weather and pitch conditions) was reversed yesterday morning.
Our position in both tables is roughly similar – mid-table, with an uncertain future – so it’s all to play for on Sunday.
In light of this, there will be no Club ’51 pre-match meet-up this weekend. We have a good excuse though – instead, we’ll be getting in early to cheer on our hurlers. We’d encourage everyone to come along and join us at 12.45pm to get behind this tremendous bunch of lads, who put a huge amount of time and effort into representing their county and are just as proud to wear the green and red as our footballers, but don’t often get a chance to play in front of a big home crowd.
So once the flags and banners have been hung, Club ’51 will be gathering in the stand (a stand which, incidentally, will be regarded with a new reverence and appreciation by anyone who spent two hours last Sunday sitting on a plank in the rain in Mullingar) to the right of the tunnel, in the now legendary area known as the Black Rectangle (see illustration). Come and join us, bring your hats, flags, scarves, headbands onesies and whatever else you’re into, and let’s start transforming McHale Park into a sea of green and red to cheer our boys onto a double victory.
Here’s also wishing our U21s the very best of luck tonight vs. Roscommon in what’s sure to be another lively encounter. See you on Sunday!