Ballintubber will have to produce the game of their lives - and some - to have a chance against standard bearers and All-Ireland champions, Corofin, in the Connaught final this Sunday at Elverys MacHale Park - with throw in at 2pm.
Everything considered, this Corofin team are probably one of - if not the best Club team ever - to play the game. Their performance in this year's All-Ireland final, last St Patrick’s day was the best display by any team on final day. They tore shreds off Nemo Rangers of Cork to handsomely win by 2-19 to 0-10.
I expected Roscommon's Clan Na nGael to put it up to them two weeks ago in the Connacht semi final but again, Corofin demoralised their opponents, scoring a massive 4-22 in the process. The task facing Ballintubber is a mammoth one and when you factor in that Hurling All-Star Daithi Burke and Football All-Star Ian Burke were missing from the team against Clan, it gives you some indication of what you are dealing with.
Ballintubber have no choice but to make the game ugly and flood their defence with bodies to make space a premium inside their 45. It was that tactic, adopted by Mountbellew/Moylough in the Galway county final against them, that nearly paid dividends. If you go toe to toe with them they will tear you apart.
Apart from a brilliantly orchestrated forward line, in Dylan Wall and Kieran Molloy they have two wing backs capable of causing untold damage going forward. It's imperative that Diarmuid O'Connor and Jason Gibbons continue their fine form and get a stranglehold of midfield to give Ballintubber any chance. The bookmakers feel the Mayo champions are wasting their time and have Corofin priced at 1/5 to hold onto their crown, while Ballintubber are rank outsiders at 9/2, which are huge odds on a team that have so many household names in their ranks.
Should Ballintubber pull this one off, it will be their greatest triumph ever on a football pitch, not just because of winning their first Connaught Championship, but because it would mean they have defeated one of the best teams to play the game in the process.
Putting the players first
Most of you may be unaware of this but on Saturday, December 1, Micheal Martin (not the leader of Fianna Fail ), who is the chairperson of the fixtures review committee, is to host a seminar at which the fixtures makers from every county board are to come together, to try to come up with a master fixtures plan for the GAA and a forum to suit player development.
We heard Mr Martin on Radio 1 last Sunday and he seems like a very intelligent man with his ear most definitely on the ground. Through his thorough research he has accumulated some very detailed information and recognises it is virtually impossible to please all of the people all of the time - but so far, under his guidance, there have been some very positive developments, particularly taking the club player into account.
All but two counties in the entire country provided a master fixtures program for their clubs last January, which was a very welcome development. Club players here in Mayo knew that once they had a championship game played on either April 7 or 8, that they would not be out again in the Championship until the end of August - and therefore could plan their summer with peace of mind.
The main issue I have with the current fixtures set-up is the fact that players from successful clubs (ie those who get to to All-Ireland semi finals and finals ), are deprived of the chance of playing for teams they qualify to play for, in important competitions.
Take Ballintubber's Connacht final opponents on Sunday as a prime example. Not one Corofin player played a second of football for Galway in the entire national league in 2019, because of their run to this year's club final. There is an unwritten rule that county managers do not go near players for the league from clubs, if they are in the semi final or final.
That unwritten rule deprives a county Manager of the services of accomplished club players for the national league and it also deprives the players themselves of donning a county jersey and trying to make a name for themselves at elite level, while also trying to secure a place for themselves in the county set-up for the championship.
Two Corofin players, Kieran Molloy and Liam Silke, were also deprived of the chance of playing in this year's Sigerson final, because it was on the same day they played Moorefield of Kildare in the All-Ireland club semi final - although Molloy did get a Garda escort from Tullamore to Dublin to come on in the second half of the Sigerson final.
Players should not be put in that predicament. Mr Martin did mention considering the idea of bringing the club finals forward to January - which would free up players for the national league and Sigerson cup - but he did concede that it's virtually impossible to get the club program finished within a calender year at present.
Should Ballintubber, against the odds, turn over Corofin on Sunday, I wouldn't fancy going into the National League next year without the services of the two O'Connor's and possibly Jason Gibbons - would you?