St Brigids' run as Connacht and All-Ireland champions came to a dramatic end this afternoon in Dr Hyde Park when Castlebar Mitchels prevailed by 3-13 to 2-12. after a pulsating eighty minutes of action in the Senior Connacht Club Football Championship final at the Roscommon venue.
Brigids led by five at half-time, but Mitchels roared back to lead by the same margin midway through the second half, powered by a penalty from Neil Douglas and a flicked goal from Richie Feeney.
A Richie Blaine goal for St Brigids turned the tide back in favour of the Roscommon club and they led by two, 2-11 to 3-06, entering injury time at the end of the hour.
However on a day when Marty Duffy dominated the headlines with four red cards, he twice gave critical calls in favour of the Mayo club, first overturning a line ball and then awarding a controversial last-minute free to Castlebar to send the game to extra time.
Darragh Donnelly and Richie Blaine were both send off in extra time as the younger legs of the Castlebar club ran riot.
A devastating first-half performance from the Kiltoom and Cam club put paid to St Marys of Leitrim in the Connacht semi-final and the reigning All-Ireland champions opened in similarly devastating fashion here, with Senan Kilbride and Cathal McHugh both hitting the target in the first minute.
Kilbride showed great power to break two tackles and hit the Castlebar net soon after, but a similarly powerful right-footed blast from Danny Kirby finally helped Castlebar to get a foothold in the tie.
Both sides had plenty of possession in the second quarter of the tie but Brigids were able to create chances in better areas of the field and they built up a healthy 1-06 to 1-01 lead by half-time, while Mitchels succeeded only in posting five first-half wides and dropping another five shots short of the target.
The momentum changed utterly after half-time; however, as Mitchels exploded out of the blocks, hitting 2-05 in the third quarter, while Brigids could only muster up a solitary score from Adrian Gleeson.
Richie Feeney was central to both goals, drawing a foul inside the large square for the first and palming the second to the net after a great run along the right touchline from Tom King.
It wasn’t all good news for Mitchels; however, as Barry Moran was sent off in the 37th minute, Marty Duffy deeming that his body check on Gearóid Cunniffe was worthy of a straight red card.
That extra man began to tell in the last quarter as Brigids slowly reeled in the deficit and when Richie Blaine hit the net in the 52nd minute to give them the lead, it looked as if a fourth Connacht title in succession for the Roscommon club was on the cards.
Frankie Dolan stretched their lead out to two with a magnificent score, but then two crucial calls from Marty Duffy, first when he over-ruled his linesman to award a sideline to Castlebar, and then when he gave a free and a second yellow card against Ian Kilbride for a seemingly innocuous challenge, both led to points for Mitchels. That left the score 3-08 to 2-11 after the hour’s play.
Darragh Donnelly was next to leave the field in the second minute of added time, giving Castlebar a vital advantage. He was shown a second yellow for dangerous play as he attempted to get a toe to a loose ball in the Castlebar penalty area and almost immediately, Castlebar’s youth and energy quickly began to influence the tie.
Both sides scored one point in the first period of extra time, but points from James Durcan and Cian Costello in the second period of extra time were enough to round off a fantastic day for Pat Holmes’ men.
St Brigids: S Curran; R Stack, D Donnelly, N Grehan (0-01); J Murray, G Cunniffe, N McInerney; K Mannion, G Ahern; I Kilbride, G Dolan, P Kelly (0-01); F Dolan (0-05, 0-03 frees 0-01 ‘45), S Kilbride (1-02, 0-01 free), C McHugh (0-01).
Subs: A Gleeson (0-01) for McHugh (28 mins), R Blaine (1-00) for G Dolan (HT), G Dolan for McInerney (47 mins), D O’Connor for Kelly (58 mins), Robbie Kelly (15th man, start of extra time), P Kelly for Grehan (62 mins), M O’Carroll (0-01) for Mannion (69 mins), S Mannion for Curran (75 mins)
Castlebar Mitchels: C Naughton; R O’Malley, T Cunniffe, A Feeney; D Newcombe, E O’Reilly, P Durcan; B Moran, A Walsh; N Douglas (1-02, 1-00 pen, 0-01 free), T King (0-06, 0-04 frees), G McDonagh; R Feeney (1-00), D Kirby (1-01), N Lydon (0-01).
Subs: F Durkan for McDonagh (50 mins), S Hopkins for Walsh (57 mins), David Joyce (15th man, start of extra time), J Durcan (0-02) for O’Malley (70 mins), Cian Costello (0-01) for Lydon (76), A Walsh for O’Reilly (80 mins).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)