By Martin Mannering
It is a pretty good sign of a successful season when you are still competing after the calendar has been replaced. When it means that you are one step away from a Croke Park final, it reads even better.
That’s where Liverpool’s John Mitchel’s find themselves after a season that started off slowly but has gathered momentum by the game. There were some very indifferent performances during the early rounds of the Lancashire Championship and indeed right up to the county final itself.
They excelled in parts of games but as often as not, they seemed to switch off and invariably struggled to close games out. Credit of course must go to their rivals within the county but there was little to suggest they would be where they are now.
Indeed if keeper Mattie Deeney and Niall McShane had not combined heroically to deny Paul Noone of St Oisin’s in the dying minutes of the county final, we may well not be writing this page. As it panned out, the Merseysiders threw off the shackles after retaining that county title and there has been a steady upward curve in their performance levels since.
A difficult trip to Edinburgh to face a talented Dunedin Connolly’s was successfully negotiated with an Eddie Jackson goal proving decisive. A home tie against Sean McDermotts followed and despite a gallant effort by the Birmingham lads, a Colly Murphy goal sent them on the way to the All Britain final.
This was the day the blue and gold outfit really clicked into gear. Faced with a much vaunted North London Shamrocks, a blistering opening period saw Mitchel’s rip predictions of their demise into shreds. Shamrocks had dazzled their way through the London championship and were highly fancied to go some distance but they were completely overwhelmed by a team who gave emphatic answers to any who had questioned their hunger and attitude. To a man they lifted their game and with Kieran Lynam and Michael Molloy finding their true scoring form, they were unstoppable. Mitchel’s did have to withstand a valiant comeback by the London side but used all their experience to see the job done.
The All-Ireland quarter-final was very much a case of ‘same again, thank you’ as Arann Islands were swept to sea by another power packed first half display. Colly Murphy’s early goal set them on their way and they never looked back. When Mitchel’s did come under pressure in the second half, Padraig McGurk led a superb defence that refused to buckle.
So now they find themselves one game away from a Croke Park date on Valentine’s day and this time, it is Westmeath champions Moate who stand in their way.
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World – out now.