No quarter will be given in the battle to be the best

GAA: Mayo GAA SFC Final

Who will come out on top when Ballintubber and Breaffy meet on Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile

Who will come out on top when Ballintubber and Breaffy meet on Saturday night. Photo: Sportsfile

Some time around 9.30pm tomorrow night after 32 games and 1,960 minutes of football (minus injury time ), we will find out who is the best of the best in the county.

The geographic dividing line between the two sides competing in the final is as close as it can be and tomorrow night, the gap on the scoreboard is expected to be just as close.

Ballintubber head into the final on the back of two serious work-outs against Castlebar Mitchels over the past two weekends, with extra time being needed both times - before Joe Geraghty's late heroics saw them edge the defending champions under the lights last Saturday night.

For Breaffy - they have had a two week lead in to prepare and watch their potential opponents after seeing off Ballaghaderreen by three points in their semi-final in the county headquarters.

The Tubber' head into the game as favourites, following their battle-hardening win over Mitchels and the fact they have three titles in their back pocket in the last eight years, while Breaffy have never won the Moclair - having reached the final twice in the past five years, losing to Mitchels in both 2013 and 2015.

The underdogs having tasted defeat to Mitchels in both of their previous final appearances will be keen to put things to right tomorrow night and they have the players and potential to do just that.

The positioning of Aidan O'Shea will be a key factor in how they fare. He was posted at full-foward early doors in the semi-final and while he didn't get the return he would have hoped for - Ballintubber know they can't afford to let him get on top in there. Cathal Hallinan is a wily defender and will relish the challenge if he is presented with it, Kevin Johnson on the Ballintubber sideline has proved to be a very shrewd tactician and will have something up his sleeve to curb the potential influence of the middle O'Shea brother.

Added to this no-one was ever really in doubt about Diarmuid O'Connor's abilities in Mayo - over the last two weekends he has stood head and shoulders above the rest in his application and determination on the field. Both of his displays against Mitchels in the semi-final were pulled right from the top drawer, so much so that Castlebar sacrificed the threat that Paddy Durcan posed in an attempt to shackle O'Connor in the replay.

What Breaffy do to try and keep O'Connor as quiet as they can will be an intriguing sub-plot, his former Mayo u21 team-mate Matthew Ruane was in blistering form in the semi-final and he could be the man dispatched to shackle him - or the likes of Keith Mulchrone could be asked to stick to him like a shadow.

Up front both sides pack a serious punch. For Ballintubber, Cillian O'Connor only needs a second to pounce and land a killer blow, while Alan Dillon is as crafty and creative as ever and will be looking to slip in that killer ball all day long. The semi-finals didn't go the greatest for Alan Plunkett, but he has shown numerous times that he doesn't need much invitation to catch fire, while young up and coming attacker Ciaran Gavin has been one of the revelations of the championship for Johnson's side.

Breaffy are well forewarned of the threats posed by the Tubber attack, having faced them already this year in the championship in a contest that went right down to the wire and ended up as a draw, with Rob Hennelly batting down a late Cillian O'Connor free from over the bar.

In that one, James Minogue had done well on Cillian O'Connor, before picking up a black card and will be expected to renew rivalries with him again or Michael Hall, who missed the semi-final through injury, could get the nod to shackle his Mayo team-mate.

Seamus O'Shea has been lining out at centre-half back and floating in between there and the middle, with Peter Dravins also dropping from midfield to provide a protective shield when needed in the sem-final win, while Mark Dervan and Dylan Cannon have been continuing to improve as the season progresses.

As for the Breaffy attack, Conor O'Shea has been their stand-out attacker, winning plenty of ball and chipping in with a number of scores all championship long, while the fleet-footed pair of Gareth Dunne and Tommy O'Reilly will give the Ballintubber rearguard plenty to think about. Robbie Fadden brings size and drive to their half forward line, while Rory Martyn can pop up anywhere on the pitch and will be looking to link the attack and defence as much as possible.

At the back for the 'Tubber, Gary Loftus and Brian Murphy will look to be touch tight to their men, while team captain Damien Coleman and Ruaidhri O'Connor are more than capable of not only curbing the Breaffy attack but of having a big say going forward, while Michael Plunkett has been relishing his role at number six and showed his scoring instincts with a well taken goal the first day out against Mitchels.

Whoever gets a grip in the middle of the field will be key to the outcome of this game, Jason Gibbons and Diarmuid O'Connor are a serious combination, while the Breaffy duo of Ruane and Dravins - supplemented by either of the elder two O'Shea brothers, will have to stand their ground if they are going to come out on top in this one.


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