This is the one that neutrals and supporters alike have been looking forward to since each side won its respective county title. The sides have met twice in the last three years, with Castlebar Mitchels gaining the upper hand on both of those occasions and going all the way to the All Ireland final. In the year they did not meet, Corofin saw off the best Mayo could offer, made it as far as St Patrick's Day, and brought the Andy Merrigan Cup home for the second time in their history.
Last Saturday Castlebar Mitchels calmly disposed of the challenge put in front of them by Tourlestrane, in what was a forgettable game and did so without All Star nominee Paddy Durcan who is expected back for Sunday. In truth Mitchels could have won by a good bit more than the five points they did, but they took it handy down the home straight, and for a side who were playing their fifth game in as many weeks, and now are getting ready for their sixth in six, you can understand why.
That heavy run of fixtures is something that the Mitchels management team will be hoping does not count against them on Sunday against the Galway champions who will have been eyeing up a potential return fixture with the Castlebar boys since last year's Connacht final in Tuam Stadium. Castlebar are looking to emulate the kind of dominance at home that Corofin have in Galway, where they have won eight of the last 11 county titles, and with three in four years they are well under way to establishing their own run of success here.
But it is what Corofin achieved in March last year they really want, and this weekend's game is another step towards getting back to that level they want to get over. The game will throw up a number of fascinating duels and battles on the field, and this is where the winning and the losing of the game will be. In attack Castlebar's Neil Douglas has been in blistering form, kicking another 1-5 last Saturday against Tourlestrane to go with the 1-20 he scored over the knock-out stages of the Mayo championship over the previous three weekends. His expected battle with Corofin's Liam Silke is one of the key battles that will shape the outcome of this game. Douglas is in brilliant form at the minute and everything seems to be going right for him, he has taken on some great point scoring from play along with placed balls, and had been able to make sure he is in the right space when goal scoring chances are created. Silke is a tough, quick, physical defender who will be well up for the challenge and with Douglas in the form he is in, it will need a serious performance to shackle him.
At the other end of the field the potential battle between Paddy Durcan and Gary Sice is another that could become intrinsic to the outcome of this contest. Both men are nursing hamstring injuries, with Sice missing out on the Galway final three weeks ago and Mitchels taking no chances with Durcan last Saturday against Tourlestrane after he had to leave the Mayo final with 15 minutes to go.
Another Corofin attacker who will need plenty of minding on Sunday is Jason Leonard, he wore number 15 on his back in the county final against Salthill-Knocknacarra but started at wing forward scoring nine points over the hour, five of them from play. Ray O'Malley could be tasked with picking him up, or Eoghan O'Reilly. Donie Newcombe and Michael Lundy could be in for a good tussle with Ger McDonagh who has been bossing the full back position for Mitchels, looking to keep tabs on Michael Farragher.
In the middle of the park Barry Moran and Aidan Walsh will square off against the duo of Daithi Burke and Ronan Steede, Burke is better known as a Galway hurler and picked up his second All Star in a row in the small ball game last weekend, and with him and Moran expected to face off it should be a brilliant battle. While Douglas is Mitchels' main man in attack, James Durcan has been in good form, and while he did not really get into the game after getting the start last weekend Danny Kirby has got some serious game time into his legs now since his return to the club, and if he hits his groove can cause havoc if introduced. Cian Costello was a surprise omission from the starting line up last weekend, but his buzzing high energy all running game could be crucial on Sunday if Mitchels are going to emerge victorious.
All in all, this promises to be an epic encounter in the low winter sun on Sunday afternoon and a thoroughly enjoyable affair for the neutral if not for the supporters of both sides involved.