Ballintubber hit the provincial championship road

GAA: Connacht SFC Quarter Final

On the ball: Diarmuid O'Connor of Ballintubber will be a key man for his side this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

On the ball: Diarmuid O'Connor of Ballintubber will be a key man for his side this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

After claiming their fifth Mayo senior title this decade, Ballintubber will go looking to scratch the one major itch they haven't been able to get rid of during that run and win a provincial title to go with the quintet of county title wins.

The west Mayo men will be in familiar territory on Sunday afternoon when they take on Leitrim champions, Glencar Manorhamilton in MacHale Park, with the game throwing in at 2pm in the county grounds.

Ballintubber have twice reached the provincial decider during their run of success this decade in 2014 and last year in 2018 - both times going down to Corofin - both times the Galway side have gone on to win the All Ireland title that season.

The Mayo champions were the model of efficiency and composure in the Mayo decider - pulling back a four point deficit late in the first half, to go in level at the break and then upping the pressure in the second half and showing their staying power to see off the challenge of Ballaghaderreen in impressive style.

On Sunday they will go in as more than warm favourites against the Leitrim champions, who picked up their seventh county title last month - their first since 2011, with a narrow 0-16 to 0-15 win over the former kingpins of Leitrim football, Sean O'Heslins, who have won 20 senior titles in the county - but haven't laid their hands on the title since 1990.

This season's win for Glencar Manorhamilton came on the back of them losing four finals since their last victory in the county, with three of those losses coming in a row from 2015 to 2017.

Their captain, Conor Dolan, was their main man in the Leitrim final, kicking an injury time free to edge them home in the decider. Dolan finished up with seven points to his name that day, with four of them coming from frees. Corner forward Niall Brady, wing forward Adrian Croal and midfielder Darren Sweeney all chipped in with two points each - with Sweeny's scores coming from 45s.

Ballintubber's main scoring threat remains Cillian O'Connor, who finished up the county final with seven points to his name, but they have plenty of quality supporting actors who are more than capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck when needed and having a major impact. In the Mayo final Keelan McDonnell came off the bench to chip in with two big points to steer them home, while Stephen O'Malley hit three points for Kevin Johnson's side.

In the middle of the park the pairing of Jason Gibbons and Diarmuid O'Connor are as good as any out there in the club game and the younger O'Connor can always be relied on to come up with a big score when the game is in the melting pot - which he did once again in the Mayo final.

At the back, team captain Damien Coleman and Ruaidhri O'Connor are sticky wing-backs either side of Michael Plunkett - who further cemented his progress as a serious player by scoring the vital goal for Ballintubber before the break in the Mayo final to reel in the lead Ballaghaderreen had built up.

Behind them Myles Kelly, Gary Loftus and Bryan Walsh are a composed and tenacious tackling unit who will give their direct opponents very little time on the ball, further up the field Ciaran Gavin and Bryan Walsh will work hard and are more than capable of chipping in with a few scores from wing forward.

The one big decision that Johnshon will have to make is whether to start Alan Dillon - the two time All Star missed their semi-final win, with Alan Plunkett coming in to fill the void impressively. Plunkett held on to his place for the final, but Dillon did get game time and played a major role in a vital score when the game was coming to the crunch. Dillon's experience and in-game composure will be vital for Ballintubber later on if they get over this one and he could be held in reserve to come on at the three quarter-mark and help see the game out.

The prize for the winners is a trip to Tuam Stadium the following week, where they will take on the winners of the Galway championship - that championship has gone to a replay after Gary Sice dug the defending Galway, Connacht and All Ireland champions Corofin out at the death against Tuam Stars a fortnight ago.

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