Ballintubber limped over the line against Leitrim champions Glencar Manorhamilton in the Connacht quarter final on a scoreline of 1-11 to 0-9 to set up a mouth-watering clash with All-Ireland club champions Corofin next Sunday at 2pm in Tuam.
Cillian O’Connor’s absence in the game because of a hamstring injury was a noteworthy setback for our senior representatives, who failed to excite or play with any fluidity for the most part of this dour contest.
You can only presume the thinking of not risking O'Connor was to have him fit and raring to go against Corofin. Sometimes it's a risk to rest or not take a chance on a player for a potentially bigger contest but I'm sure Kevin Johnson's ideologies were simple. If we can't beat the Leitrim champions without Cillian O' Connor then what hope have we against Corofin with him.
Alan Plunkett's goal in the first minute of the second half was the decisive score to settle Ballintubber who only went in at the break a point to the good. Ciaran Gavin looked like he was going to shoot the lights out, landing three first half points from play and another from a placed ball. He didn't however trouble the umpires at all for the second half.
After Glencar's Killian McGriskin received a second Yellow and subsequent red card four minutes after Plunkett's goal, you expected the flood gates to open and Ballintubber to kick on, but they failed to hammer home their numerical advantage and kept their opponents within touching distance right until the end. Ballintubber know they will have to improve drastically to have a chance against Corofin.
Corofin have mastered their run to county, provincial and All-Ireland titles in the last two years, getting better game by game. However they nearly got caught in the Galway county final for the second year running. The worry for Ballintubber is that it's at this stage of the competition that Corofin come alive.
Encouragement can be taken from the fact that Tuam Stars were right in the contest in the replayed Galway final all the way to the bitter end. They - like Kerry after this year's All-Ireland - will have sleepless nights for not getting the job done at the first time of asking. You only seem to get one chance against a team of that calibre.
Ballintubber had Corofin rattled in last year's Connacht final in Castlebar - only for the introduction of Ian Burke at half time and a brilliant goal straight from the Corofin training ground - Ballintubber were right in the mix. Ballintubber were three up at the interval last year but Corofin outscored the Mayo champions by 1-08 to 0-4 for the second period to win comfortably, something I have no doubt has been mentioned in the dressing rooms in Clogher all this week.
Ballintubber will need a near perfect performance to win. Big games from all their big players and of course, a fit Cillian O'Connor. After taking down five Moclair cups over the last decade, this is the next step for them. Taking on one of the greatest club teams ever doesn't help matters.
The Neale travel into the unknown when they take on Sligo intermediate champions Geevagh in Markievicz Park on Sunday at 2pm. I have no doubt the wild celebrations in South Mayo were firmly put to bed to prepare for an assault at a Connacht title. This game represents a perfect way for The Neale to kick off their Connacht campaign. I expect them to win by double figures.
Paddy picks up a deserved All Star
Congrats to Paddy Durcan on winning his well-deserved All-Star. I was a little shocked when I realised he is Castlebar Mitchels first All-Star recipient. The selection of Brian Howard at centre back however is nonsensical. A guy that played all his football at wing forward and on the odd occasion dropped to midfield, getting picked at number six. Colm Boyle should really feel hard done by. In my opinion Howard should have been selected at wing forward instead of Michael Murphy and Colm Boyle or Donal Keoghan should have got the centre back spot.
And on to the other stuff
Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse or more embarrassing Mayo GAA is making the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. After a county board meeting last Monday evening, several clubs issued statements to say their representative delegates did not get an option to and therefore didn't vote on a motion of confidence in the county board - yet the county board issue a statement saying they received overwhelming support from the delegates. In other words, none of the delegates spoke or complained and that results in an overwhelming show of support. Jesus, when is this embarrassment going to end. A subsequent meeting took place last night to clarify matters with the club delegates. Oh to have been a fly on the wall for that.