Big chance for Ballintubber to put best foot forward

GAA: Comment

The next step: Ballintubber are ready to take the next step this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile.

The next step: Ballintubber are ready to take the next step this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile.

Ballintubber travel into the unknown on Sunday when they play Sligo Champions Tourlestrane in the Connaught club quarter final. The unavailability of Markievicz Park means Sunday's action will take place in picturesque Enniscrone.

After winning their previous Mayo Championships, Ballintubber would have been relatively disappointed with how things went when they represented Mayo in the Connaught championship, failing to get their hands on the Shane McGettigan cup. Sunday's game proves the ideal starting point in their quest for that elusive piece of Silverware.

The Sligo champions are certainly beatable but dangerous enough to keep the minds focused. Avoiding the Galway champions and impressive looking Roscommon Champions Clan Na Gael, possibly until the final, makes it a kind draw for this year's Mayo representatives.

I spoke to Eamon O'Hara and the Tourlestrane management team after Ballintubber won the Moclair cup and also to a few of their players and supporters since then and they certainly are not suffering from an inferiority complex. In an era when a team normally plays down their chances against so-called superior opposition, that is certainly not the case with the Sligo champions and they are very bullish about causing an upset.

It's encouraging to see managers and players having confidence in their own abilities. However Tourlestrane have experienced nothing like what Ballintubber will bring to Sunday's encounter en route to winning the Sligo championship, their third in a row. They will not have encountered anyone with the guile of Alan Dillon or the mobility and athleticism of Diarmuid O'Connor.

Their backs will not relish trying to carry the ball out of their defence with Cillian O'Connor in the vicinity. The entire Ballintubber forward division will make it very difficult for the Tourlestrane backs when the Sligo defenders have possession, that’s a given. They harassed Castlebar Mitchels and Breaffy with real intent and conviction. I don't expect complacency to be an issue this Sunday.

Ballintubber are second favourites for the Connacht club championship at 3/1 behind Corofin who are priced at 8/15, despite using their get-out-of-jail card in last weekend's Galway final against Mountbellew/Moylough. That game finished at 0-7 points a piece in what was a dreary and drab affair. I expect Corofin to make no mistake at the second time of asking. You feel the outsiders missed their big chance. Ballintubber will take their journey one step at a time.

Horan gets moving

James Horan and his management team have phase one of their reign complete with six teams made up from up to 100 players taking part in six games played over the bank holiday weekend. Any trialists were given the chance to impress in two games played on Saturday and Monday.

It's expected that players are to find out over the weekend if they are to be seen again. What was notable is that many established players also took part in the trials - I'm presuming because Horan wanted to see if any potential players were able to stand out amongst the best we have, which is ultimately what you have to do to become a Mayo senior player. I understand another trial game is to take place in the near future for players unable to attend last weekend.

Cluxton misses out again

It's unusual to see the All-Stars taking place without a whole host of Mayo players in contention for the big prizes. It's the first time since 2010 (when we lost to Longford in a qualifier ) that Mayo is without a single nominee.

The big question again is who would be the goalkeeper and once again, Stephen Cluxton has been overlooked. It was a very close call between him and David Clarke over the past two years - with Clarke winning both years. It was a surprise to me that, despite having a great year, Rory Beggan was chosen over him again this year and will be greeted with much dismay by the Dublin supporters.

Rory Beggan had a brilliant year between the posts for Monaghan but Karl O O’Connell and Conor McManus look certain to claim a place on this year's team, meaning Cluxton will get the No.1 Spot.

I didn't think that three players from Monaghan would take home awards - with them not having won a provincial title, but they did pick up three All Stars with Conor McManus and Karl O'Connell also picking up awards, as was expected. I had thought that Shane Walsh would be the sole winner from Galway and while the Tribesmen did pick up one All Star, it went to Ian Burke.

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