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Dublin: 10°C Saturday 15 May 2021

5 talking points as All-Ireland finalists Castlebar defend Mayo crown against Ballintubber

Since 2009 Castlebar and Ballintuber will have made six county final appearances between them in the five years.

1. Goals win matches and Ballintubber know how to score them

Cillian O'Connor 24/8/2014 Cillian O'Connor is Ballintubber's main goalscoring threat. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In last month’s championship semi final Ballintubber scored an astonishing nine goals against a beleaguered Knockmore side.

With a final score of 9-11 to 2-12, Cillian O’Connor’s team demonstrated how their ability to find the back of net can turn a balanced game on its head.

The Mayo attacker ended that game with 3-3 beside his name, but he’s shown that even at the highest level he’s capable of scoring goals – he netted three between this year’s drawn and replayed All-Ireland semi final.

Let’s not forget though that another six Ballintubber goals were scored against Knockmore, outside of O’Connor’s tally.

2. What advantage will last year’s experience carry for Castlebar?

Donal Newcombe lifts the cup Donal Newcombe lifts last year's Connacht club trophy. Source: Mike Shaughnessy/INPHO

Castlebar have shown remarkable character to bounce back from last March’s All-Ireland heartbreak with such consistency within this year’s championship.

When these two met back in 2011 there was just a point between the teams, while a year earlier there were just 13 points scored in total, so this game may once again come down to a test of character – something at this point Castlebar have shown they have bags full of.

Last year’s journey is also sure to have built a reserve of confidence amongst the Castlebar team, with victories over the likes of St Brigid’s and Dr Crokes adding a mini-career worth of experience to the likes of young Danny Kirby.

3. How will Castlebar handle Dillon and O’Connor?

Alan Dillon reacts to a missed chance Alan Dillon in Ballintubber's last final in 2012.

Some may say that the experienced Alan Dillon’s county career is in it’s closing stages, but off the back of what has actually been an impressive season for the Mayo man his quality and experience is sure to shine through in this game.

Dillon has shown this year that he has the footballing ability to make up for a reduction in mobility, and let’s remember he managed 1-4 during this year’s two-game saga with Kerry.

Fellow attacker Cillian O’Connor tallied 3-13 between those two games. If the duo can cause such damage to the All-Ireland champions, what hope have Castlebar you could ask?

As he did last year, Castlebar centre-back Tom Cunniffe looks certain to pick up who the champions deem to be Ballintuber’s main scoring threat. With that likely to be O’Connor, the onus will fall on Dillon to take some added responsibility, once again.

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4. That midfield battle will be crucial

Jason Gibbons Ballintubber's Jason Gibbons. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With young Danny Kirby, Aidan Walsh and big Barry Moran, Castlebar have three midfielders capable of winning clean possession against the best of teams.

Last year they even had the luxury of rotating Moran in and out of the full forward position, but with Ger McDonagh set to miss out with a knee injury that may not be the case this weekend.

Ballintuber are no push overs in the middle sector either though. Under the James Horan era, Jason Gibbons has been one of the country’s most improved midfielders and before his season was disrupted by injury, he was Mayo’s standout performer during the league campaign.

He may line out beside Stephen Broderick or young Danny Geraghty, who like Walsh and Kirby for Castlebar, comes with an underage pedigree and some experience with the Mayo seniors over the past few pre-seasons.

This battle will be key to the game’s outcome.

5. Can Castlebar gain revenge for final defeats to Ballintubber in 2010 and 2011?

Source: Tubbertv2011/YouTube

This is the third final the teams will have met in over the past five years. Ballintubber had the bit between their teeth in 2010 to win their first ever senior championship, just a year after an intermediate triumph both under the guidance of James Horan.

And a year on they would again get the better of Castlebar, but this time with just a point to spare. So will the two-time champions have one over mentally on Castlebar?

Or will those defeats offer the perfect motivation for a team who couldn’t be blamed for some mental fatigue after a long two years on the road?

Castlebar’s championship win last year was a first in 10 years, with three final losses in the interim. All the while though they have been dominating the under age scene in the county.

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