Sunday's Connacht club final set to be a cracker in Castlebar

Corofin favourites, but Ballintubber will try to make home advantage count

The eagerly anticipated AIB Connacht senior Football Club Championship final between Corofin and Mayo champions Ballintubber takes place this Sunday (2pm ) at MacHale Park, Castlebar.

It promises to be a top class game with both sides possessing some sublime forwards and showing tremendous form in their respective wins over St Brigid's and Aughawillian.

Mulhollands has the Galway champions as 4/7 favourites, with Ballintubber, who are under the joint-guidance of former senior Galway manager Peter Forde and former Mayo u-21 and minor manager Tony Duffy, available at 7/4, which will appeal to people who like some value in their wager.

There are many key battles to savour all over the field in this clash, but, we feel these three will be critical in deciding who will be Connacht champions late Sunday afternoon.

Cillian O'Connor (Btubber ) v Kieran Fitzgerald (Corofin )

O'Connor has been in super form for club and county over the past few seasons and he added an All-Star this season to his two young player of the year gongs.

His accuracy and ruthlessness in front of goal is a pleasure to observe and Mayo supporters must have wished they had another forward with his verve and eye for goals over the past few years and indeed against Kerry this season in their two clashes.

Is it fair to say that if Mayo had one other forward of his scoring calibre they would have won an All-Ireland title in 2012, 2013 or 2014?

Fitzgerald has been a tremendous player and captain for Corofin over the past 12 or more years.

Fitzie won an All-Star back in 2001 with Galway at corner back to add to his senior medal that year and he would dearly love to get another crack at winning an elusive club All-Ireland with Corofin too.

Despite having played in two All-Ireland club semi-finals - against Kilmacud Crokes and St Gall’s - this Corofin squad have yet to play on St Patrick's Day.

Fitzgerald was injured last year when Castlebar bounced Corofin out of the Connacht championship and he will be keen to provide real leadership on Sunday to his other defenders.

O' Connor has the advantage of youth, but Fitzgerald is in great physical shape and it has the making of a genuine Ali v Frazier contest.

Alan Burke (Corofin ) v Alan Dillon (Btubber )

When Ballintubber needed a steady hand on the rudder against St Brigid's, it was double All-Star winner (2006 and 2012 ) Alan Dillon who provided it with two stupendous points from play.

Dillon works as a validation engineer in Alergan and at 32 he has been involved in plenty of high quality games with both club and especially Mayo, where he has suffered far too many All-Ireland final defeats.

It is crucial for Corofin that his influence is kept to a minimum in open play and that he is not allowed spray quality passes to his inside line.

Burke is a former all-Ireland winning u-21 captain with Galway and he also enjoyed Hogan Success in St Jarlath’s back in 2002, so he definitely has the pedigree and football nous to keep Dillon on a tight rein.

Alan has had a few tough years with injury, but he is back playing really clever football and anchors an impressive half-back trio of Kieran McGrath and Liam Silke.

If Dillon is nullified by Burke, he will have done a massive job for his team and, if it is not working out, then Stephen Rochford could pass the job over seamlessly to either young Silke or McGrath.

Ronan Steede (Corofin ) v Jason Gibbons (Btubber )

Gibbons had been having a terrific league campaign for Mayo seniors and had nailed down a starting place under James Horan until he suffered a bad injury.

When he returned to full fitness he was given a place in midfield against Kerry the first day, but he found it difficult to get straight back up to the pace of championship football.

He is flying again and he and Stephen Broderick lorded proceedings around the middle against St Brigid’s.

It is up to the high-fielding Ronan Steede and Galway senior hurler Daithí Burke to try to stop that dominance.

Steede, who is a student at GMIT, is an accomplished player and when he is on his game and fully focused he can be a really dominant presence around the middle D.

The winning duo in the engine room will be the foundation stone of their respective sides’ chances of success.


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