by Daragh Small
Mayo midfielder Danny Kirby says the Castlebar Mitchels squad is stronger than ever and they are heading for a Connacht final fully confident that they can dislodge champions Corofin.
Castlebar travel to Tuam Stadium on Sunday where they clash with the reigning Connacht champions in a repeat of last year's provincial semi-final.
Corofin were victorious on a 0-17 to 0-14 scoreline on that occasion, but in 2015 Castlebar claimed a 2-10 to 0-11 victory over Corofin in the Connacht final.
Castlebar reached the All-Ireland decider that year but were beaten by Ballyboden St Enda's. They lost to St Vincent's in the 2014 final.
And the 25-year-old says this Castlebar team are more than capable of representing Connacht again this season.
"Some people might think that we are not as good as we used to be. But within the 35-man panel we all believe that we are probably better than any time before," said Kirby.
"We are just happy to still be going and still be in a Connacht club championship."
Kirby was a 74th minute replacement for Kevin McLoughlin in this year's All-Ireland final where Mayo suffered more heartbreak at the hands of Dublin at Croke Park.
But he is delighted to still be playing football so late into the year and says big competitive matches are what keeps him ticking.
"It has been a long year. Playing games it what you want to do. It would be a different story if you were training week in week out and waiting for three to four weeks for a game," said Kirby.
"Since it's week on week, and game on game you are loving it. That's why you play football, is to play games. You don't want to be slogging on the back pitch doing runs. You want to be playing.
"We are delighted to be here and we will take every game as it comes."