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10th Oct 2022

“We’ve been waiting for this day to come” – Mitchell gets over hurling disappointment with match-winning goal in football final

Niall McIntyre

Niall Mitchell says that, as a footballer, he made a hero out of opposition goalkeepers enough times this year to have learned his lesson.

Hitting shots at the perfect height for them. Missing goal chances that he should be scoring.

But if you’d seen him ten minutes into Sunday’s Westmeath senior football final, as he bore down on the St Loman’s goalkeeper and then slotted one coolly, calmly and low into the bottom corner, you’d have certainly said that that man has learned his lesson.

Mitchell learned a few lessons this week. As a Clonkill hurler, last Sunday’s Westmeath SHC final loss to Castletown-Geoghegan was certainly a bitter one but along with his six fellow dual players, who play for both Clonkill and the Downs, there was no other option only to get back on the horse. They had a county senior football final coming up the following Sunday.

“It was an incredibly tough week,” Mitchell tells The GAA Hour.

“We (Clonkill) just didn’t really turn up on the day. We were really disappointed with ourselves, but that’s sport I suppose.

“Whatever way the head was this week, it wasn’t until Thursday or Friday when I got over the hurling final. We had a couple of trainings during the week which were good for the head, and the Downs lads, a lot of them played with Clonkill underage, so they were very supportive of us during the week.

“But look, you couldn’t really keep the head down. A lot of us are leaders on the football too so if you went in during the week with a sour head on you, you knew it would affect the football so we didn’t want that to happen.

“I had a good hour long call with Lar Wall, our football manager on Tuesday, and he was supportive and then we were back training Wednesday.”

And by Sunday, those hurling blues were in the rear-view-mirror. He was back on form, kicking 1-1 as The Downs beat St Lomans in the Westmeath SFC final.

“It was an alright finish for a hurler.

“I don’t score too many points I’ll put it to you that way!

“I always played football underage,” continues Mitchell, who is one of the Westmeath hurlers’ main forwards.

“And then played football one year with the Westmeath under-21s. Then the last few years, it’s just been two or three months a year of football. The fact that I played when I was younger definitely has stood to me.”

The Downs and Clonkill aren’t exactly ‘sister clubs’ but they are very close and the majority of Clonkill people will have been supporting their footballers on Sunday, and that will go a long way to numbing the pain of the hurling loss.

“There wouldn’t be a huge drinking culture in the Downs or Clonkill. There’s good tradition in the Downs, we’ve won a lot underage and to be honest, it might be a cocky thing to say, we’ve been waiting for this day to come.

“I’m 25 years of age so we’ve been waiting a while, but we did kind of know that this day would come.”

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