Bittersweet day for Moran as Mitchels too strong for Mohill
C'bar Mitchels 0-16 Mohill 0-11
It was freezing in MacHale Park on Saturday and the icy wind whistling through the tunnel in the stand afterwards would have tested the mettle of Tom Crean. And yet when Barry Moran left the Castlebar Mitchels dressing room to go over to the Mohill one, he walked across the concrete in his bare feet, as if it was some form of penance.
Moran, although not the Castlebar captain, was going to commiserate with the Mohill lads. And his sympathy was genuine, for Mohill is where his parents Martin and Mae are from. His father won a Leitrim County Championship with them in 1971 and held most positions in the club at some point.
Moran took no pleasure in beating the land of his parents.
"I would know most of the team there. I spent my childhood down there every weekend so I would know most of the lads," said the long-serving Mayo player.
"Dad is friends with the club and he is still the honorary president there. He managed them, he coached them, he was chairman, treasurer, everything you could name in Mohill. Played with them and everything as well, so I would know a lot of them."
Castlebar, who won their fourth Connacht club title in 2015 and recently completed a three-in-a-row in Mayo in winning their 31st crown, had to dig deep to see off the stubborn challenge of the Leitrim men.
Moran kicked two superb points in the win, but the killer blows to Mohill - who were looking to become the first Leitrim club to win Connacht - were delivered by full-forward Neil Douglas, who landed three good efforts in the final quarter.
"They were big scores," said Mohill's top scorer Keith Byrne.
"We are proud of ourselves and we have a lot to build on, but we weren't able to stay with Castlebar in the final quarter," he added, as a season when they won their seventh Leitrim title, and second in three years, came to a conclusion.
They really needed to hit Castlebar with a goal or two, but all year they have kept huge numbers behind the ball and having only hit the net three times in eight games in winning the Leitrim title, they never looked like troubling skipper Rory Byrne between the home posts.
The sides were level four times in the opening half when Mohill had whatever advantage came from the diagonal wind, but Castlebar started and finished the period strongly and led by 0-7 to 0-5 when they turned around.
Keith Beirne and Ronan Kennedy presented the biggest threat for Mohill, but they looked to be in trouble when Moran and Danny Kirby pushed the advantage to 0-9 to 0-5 just six minutes into the second-half.
Mohill, however, urged on by a vociferous band of freezing supporters in the stand, rallied.
Oisín Madden pointed, Beirne hit another free and Kennedy found the target. Beirne then levelled with another placed ball to tie the game at 0-9 apiece going into the final quarter.
Castlebar, who hit 10 wides to Mohill's three, edged in front when full-back Ger McDonagh went forward to score before Douglas hit two in quick succession.
Mohill's hopes collapsed when Cian Costello, Douglas again and Aidan Walsh all found the target to go 0-15 to 0-9 in front after 54 minutes and the Mayo champions eased their way to victory and a Connacht semi-final next weekend against Eamonn O'Hara's Tourlestrane.
"A couple of scores there just pulled it away and once we got our noses in front we pushed on," added midfielder Moran.
"We knew it was always going to be heavy going. We came in at half-time, even though we were two points up and playing with a breeze.
"We struggled, they drew level, they had the momentum and we were lucky enough to get a score or two to push on from there. They played 12 or 13 men behind the ball and they played brilliant counter football."
Connacht club SFC quarter-final
Scorers - Castlebar Mitchels: N Douglas, D Stenson (3f), C Costello 0-3 each, B Moran 0-2, E O'Reilly, R O'Malley, D Kirby, A Walsh, G McDonagh 0-1 each. Mohill: K Beirne 0-7 (6f), R Kennedy 0-2, K Keegan, O Madden 0-1 each.
Castlebar Mitchels - R Byrne; N McCarney, G McDonagh, D Newcombe; P Durcan, E O'Reilly, R O'Malley; A Walsh, B Moran; C Costello, D Kirby, J Durcan; D Stenson, N Doughlas, C Kyne. Subs: S Irwin for McCarney (50), A O'Boyle for Walsh (56), M Towey for O'Malley (58), M McCormack for Moran (60).
Mohill- P Tighe; S McGowan, R Gallagher, J Mitchell; D Gordon, C Canning, C Kennedy; D McLoughlin, S Quinn; D Beck, O Madden, K Keegan; R Kennedy, K Beirne, A McLoughlin. Subs: D Mitchell for Gordon (27), R Gordon for Beck (52), E Harkin for Madden (56).
Ref - Marty Duffy (Sligo).