John Mitchels will have to negotiate a playoff to secure their Division 3 status for 2018 after they succumbed to a strong second half showing from Westerns in Reaghstown on Sunday evening, going down 1-14 to 0-10.
The Mitchels held a five point half time advantage at the end of an impressive opening 30 minutes but there wasn’t to be a repeat after the interval. In the second half, they outscored their opponents 1-10 to 0-01 as the Reaghstown men surged away en route to victory.
Louth midfielder Tommy Durnin hit 1-09 of his team’s total and despite minor star John Gallagher showing why he is so highly regarded throughout, there was no way back for the Mitchels once the Westerns built up a cushion.
Early on Sunday, it emerged that St Brides – who sat level with John Mitchels on six points going into the final round of games – were not fielding a team in their final outing against Roche Emmets. That decision had a huge bearing on the match between the Westerns and the Mitchels in Reaghstown.
It meant any positive result – a point or a draw – could secure Division 3 football for the Ballybailie men in 2018. It also meant that the Westerns, sitting in 9th place just a point above St Brides and the Mitchels could now not be sucked into trouble. The visitors were hoping now the Westerns had nothing but pride to play for, they could benefit.
What was clear was they needed an improved performance on the last time they two teams met. That was in the Championship back in July, when the Westerns blew the Mitchels away in a wholly one-sided affair in Stabannon.
This one was a game of two-halves and it was played with the Westerns players adorning blue bibs with their only available kit – white away – clashing with the visitors regular colours.
Hugh Diamond’s side started the better. Ben O’Brien, Stephen Coyle and Gallagher had them in front, with Tommy Durnin’s close range free and a score from Trevor Baylon in reply.
Gallagher and Durnin then both exchanged a couple of frees each and O’Brien produced a good point to leave the Mitchels two points head. It got better before the break. A Gallagher brace of frees, the first from near the right touchline, and Aaron Keely’s effort sent them in 0-09 to 0-04.
O’Brien himself went close to getting a vital goal for the visitors. Gallagher and Robbie Coyle were involved in the build up. O’Brien beat goalkeeper Jonny Brennan, but Dylan Ogle was on hand to clear.
Four scores, three frees, from the boot of Durnin brought the Westerns to within one of the Mitchels within minutes of the second half but after Gallagher hit a presentable free wide, Robbie Coyle stemmed the side with an effort that arrowed over the bar.
The away team were guilty of cheap concessions in the first half and as the game wore on, they weren’t getting away with such errors in possession. Coyle’s score with 20 minutes to play was their last.
Baylon and Anthony Durnin levelled matters before Andrew Kerr put over. His path to goal was blocked after David Anderson had made an unconventional stop when a Durnin free had dropped in front of goal.
The influential Louth midfielder added two more more points before he scored a goal that put things beyond the Mitchels. He found space between Anderon and the near post and slotted the ball in confidently. His brother Anthony wrapped up the scoring in injury time.
Any chances the John Mitchels could muster late in the game, they were wide. Their shooting wasn’t matching the first half efficiency. It may or may not have made a difference.
The Mitchels will now face the fourth place team in Division 4 in a play-off semi-final. That could be Mattock Rangers, Geraldines, Cooley Kickhams or even the Ardee St Marys junior side. There is one round of games to play in that division’s regular season.
WESTERNS: Jonny Brennan, Andrew Murray, Dylan Ogle, Colin Martin, Dermot Caraher, Ciaran Scriven, Stephen Boylan, Anthony Durnin (0-02), Tommy Durnin (1-09), Andrew Kerr (0-01), Terence Sweeney, Trevor Baylon (0-02), Ciaran Campbell, Conor Kerr, Patrick Kerley.
Subs: Mick Martin for Patrick Kerley
JOHN MITCHELS: David Anderson, Mitchell Keenan, Emmett Farrell, Sam Bingham, Rory Durnin, Aaron Kane, Conall Keenan, Ruairi Mulligan, James Clarke, Stephen Coyle (0-01), Ben O’Brien (0-02), Aaron Keely (0-01), John Gallagher (0-05), Barry Kirk, Robert Coyle (0-01).
Subs: Kevin Gallagher for Ben O’Brien, Alan Mackin for Aaron Keely
REFEREE: Gabriel McKenny