Mitchels ready to make their mark on history
CASTLEBAR Mitchels' All-Ireland semi-final victory over Castleisland Desmonds finished in such a flurry of scores conceded that manager Fintan Keane said it 'felt like a loss'.
He was, of course, saying that in jest as he could finally relax following a tense hour's play against the Kerry and Munster champions, over whom victory set up a place in the final against Dublin's St. Sylvester's in Ballinasloe next Sunday.
There was plenty to admire about the semi-final victory but two glaring issues as well – Mitchels' failure to make the most of their scoring chances and the fact that they allowed the Desmonds to close to within one score of them in the final stages after having built up a 10-point advantage in the fourth quarter.
"They generally play better than that and we know there are enough good players there. It's boring but if you trust the process and trust the way you're playing it'll eventually come right," said Keane in reflection on the game.
He continued: "We didn't really get going at all in either of the opening quarters. Certainly in the first half we left a lot behind us. We were more like ourselves in the fourth quarter, I felt, with that cutting edge to us but then we just fell asleep really at the end. We could have cleared our lines a lot better.
"We knew they'd have an aerial threat with their height and with their basketball girls, but I thought we should have closed it out a lot better to be honest."
The game was a slow burner, with the best of the action packed into the final quarter.
The Kerry girls had just made it a level game at 0-6 each prior to the second water break but Mitchels cut loose on the resumption, begging the question: Just what did the manager say during that water break?
"They knew themselves..." he replied. "We had 10 or 11 wides, we had no pressure on their kick-outs, which we're normally very good at, and really it was like an under-performance, I felt.
"It wasn't that there was anyone in particular playing badly individually, but it was sloppy ball, sloppy play, and not sharp enough really."
So was he a worried man at that point, as he had been at half-time? "Yeah, because we knew we were playing a brilliant team. We should have been six or seven points clear at half-time but if you leave a good team in there, they're going to come back. We knew they would. Thankfully, for our sake, they just ran out of time."
The semi-final display hasn't dampened the enthusiasm for the final, however. Far from it. While Keane joked that he needed a heart transplant after the excitement of the semi-final, he said he was looking forward to re-jigging things a bit and getting ready for Sunday's decider against St. Sylvester.
Should they win, it will cap a remarkable year of success for the county town team. "We're not used to it – it's kinda green grass for us!" said the manager. "We'll keep taking it though," he concluded.