Clann looking forward to the challenge

AIB Connacht Club SFC Semi-Final
Clann na nGael v Castlebar Mitchels On Sunday at Dr Hyde Park at 2 pm

Clann na nGael are the most successful team in the history of the Connacht club football championship with seven titles in the bag. In fact their record of winning six titles in a row will probably never be beaten. But that was in the 1980s and times have changed since then.

  It’s been almost 20 years since Clann contested a Connacht club championship game and on Sunday they will go into the game against Mayo kingpins Castlebar Mitchels as rank outsiders. The Mayo men contested the All Ireland final in 2013 and they have many experienced players who have won the Connacht championship already.

   It was a question of priorities this year for Clann. Winning the Fahey Cup was the number one priority for them and they achieved that ambition after a long, tough year and they celebrated accordingly. However, they have had to re-focus their efforts in the past couple of weeks as this will be a very tough assignment for them.

   The Clann team manager Paul Curran told me on Tuesday that the Roscommon champions have a clean bill of health in preparation for Sunday’s game. “We have no injuries thankfully. We gave the lads a week off after winning the county final and we got back to work the following Sunday. We have trained hard and we are looking forward to the challenge on Sunday now.”

  “Castlebar are a very good side and we know what we are going to face and it will be a step up for us, but we played some really good sides in the Roscommon championship and we will be ready for the challenge. There is a great tradition in this club and while it is a long time since they competed in this championship, it will be another big experience for us along the way.”

  “This is a very young Clann team and we are learning all the time and we will be learning for the next two or three years too, and this will be a huge day for us along that learning curve.”

  “What we want is to go out there and get a performance on Sunday. The club championship over the years has shown us that there are no dead certs at all. Anything can happen on a given day and we will not be worrying about Castlebar. We will concentrate on playing to the best of our ability and let’s see how we get on”, he concluded.

  Clann will be hoping that Donie Shine and Cathal Shine can exert the same influence that they did in the county semi-final and final in the midfield area. However Castlebar are also very strong at midfield and this will be a vital battleground on Sunday.

  David Flynn and Graham Pettit will have huge roles on Sunday in defence and Fergal Lennon and Jack Connaughton will be looking to get forward as much as they can. Up front, Ultan Harney will have also a major role to play at centre forward and the likes of Johnny Dunning, Jamie Fahy, Rudhri McManus and Matt Scally will have to play the game of their lives if Clann are to win. Once again Donie Shine’s free taking will be crucial to the Clann effort.

  Castlebar are a classy side and they hammered a fancied Breaffy side by 4-10 to 0-9 in the Mayo County final.

  They have a lethal attack in which Neil Douglas has been a star and he scored 3-2 in the county final. Aidan Walsh is a very accurate free taker and will punish any ill discipline in the Clann defence. Cian Costello and Danny Kirby are also very good attacking players.

  Castlebar are now playing former county defender Richie Feeney at full-forward

  Further back Barry Moran and Aidan Walsh form a formidable looking midfield partnership while in defence Ray O’Malley, Donie Newcombe, Eoghan O’Reilly have bags of experience. Castlebar have won all their championship games by an average of 10 points this year so Clann know that they will be up against it.

  The midfield battle will be crucial to the outcome of this game. Clann have a wonderful record in the Connacht club football championship but these are different times and Castlebar will have most of the players who played in the 2013 All Ireland club final in their side on Sunday. At this level experience is so important.

  In fact many observers say that Castlebar are well capable not only of dethroning Corofin, but of going on and winning an All Ireland club title. Clann will have to get stuck in from the start if they are to have a chance. It looks a bridge too far for Paul Curran’s men.

Match Odds: Clann na nGael 3/1 Castlebar 3/10, Draw 8/1.

People Sport Prediction: Castlebar Miitchels.