‘Goals were sucker punches’

Curran targets another Fahey Cup after Clann run Castlebar close

AIB Connacht Club Senior Football Championship Semi-Final: Castlebar Mitchels 3-8 Clann na nGael 0-13

Pre-match predictions that Castlebar Mitchels would have it easy against Clann na nGael in this Connacht club semi-final at Dr Hyde Park last Sunday were wide of the mark as the Roscommon champions turned in a super second-half display to almost catch the Mayo champions who had got off to a great start in the game with two goals in the first three minutes.

  In fact a great double-save by the Castlebar goalkeeper Rory Byrne five minutes from time that denied Ultan Harney a goal, proved crucial in the end and the hot favourites survived for a Connacht final date against Corofin.

  Clann na nGael manager Paul Curran was proud of his players but disappointed that a famous victory had eluded them.

  “We are very disappointed to be honest. They hit us with a couple of sucker punches early and the two goals were a killer.

  “We elected to play with the wind in the first half to see if we could get a few scores to settle us down and it was the worst possible start but after that the lads were terrific.

  “We brought the margin down to two points and we had a few chances but Castlebar displayed just that extra little bit of cuteness and they will take beating. We are delighted with the way we finished the game and we have a very young team and they will learn from it. This is a new experience for us playing in the provincial championships but once we settled down we played well.

  “The goals were absolutely crucial. There is no way that you can concede three goals in a championship game and hope to win unless you score two or three goals yourself. We needed to get a goal but it just didn’t happen. But we never threw in the towel. The players can have a rest now and we will get back at it again in the New Year and the priority will be to retain the Fahey Cup.”

  It was a tremendous display from this young Clann team who will learn from this experience and who proved on Sunday that they are well capable of competing in this company.

  After ten minutes Paul Curran’s men were seven points down and even when they came back with a couple of pointed frees, Castlebar hit them for a third goal and a lot of other teams would have wilted and thrown in the towel at that stage. But some brilliant play from David Flynn, Fergal Lennon, Cathal Shine, Donie Shine and Ultan Harney dragged Clann back into the contest and the contributions of subs Cathal Callinan and Stephen Flynn was also instrumental as Clann battled their way back into contention.

  Watching Roscommon team managers Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell will have been very happy with the displays of Cathal Shine, Donie Shine and Ultan Harney in particular.

  Most people know that Ultan Harney is a special talent but last Sunday he played his best game of the year. His ball-winning ability and industry was a joy to behold and he scored two mighty points as well. Donie Shine was back to his best too. His total of nine points (eight frees) was huge, and included in those pointed frees were two efforts with his left foot! His contribution from general play was also superb. Cathal Shine continues to play well and he has probably been Clann’s most consistent player this summer.

  Clann will rue that very poor start to the game. They looked all at sea in that first 15 minutes but once they got going they played really well. Their young players will have learned a huge amount in this big game and it will stand to them in the years to come. I predict that Clann will be an even stronger force in 2016.

  As for Castlebar, I have to say I was disappointed with them. For a club that not only have designs on a Connacht title, but an All-Ireland title too, they went out of the game for long periods and they just about deserved to win. They will have to improve if they are to beat Corofin in the Connacht final and they can thank their lucky stars that Clann were asleep at the start of the game or they would have been in trouble. As it was, Eoghan O’Reilly, Paddy Durcan, Barry Moran, Richie Feeney, Danny Kirby and sub Cian Costello were their most prominent players.