Mayo gals know route to goal – and how to finish
By Terry Reilly (c) IT did our hearts good to see Cora Staunton sweeping through and around challenges en route to goal and applying the coup de grace in such spectacular fashion at Croker last Saturday.
Mayo, the defending All-Ireland ladies champions, were back at the scene of their historic triumph last year, trying to make it to the final again. In their way stood last year’s junior kingpins, Tyrone, full of vigour and ideas and brash enough to pose considerable problems. How would Mayo react to the pressure? Would some of their edge have been blunted in the interim? Would they have the hunger?
Well, come the second half and we – and Tyrone – got our answer. Eleven minutes into the half, Tyrone were still making the running and when their majestic Lynnette Hughes expertly steered a penalty shot past the diving clutches of Denise Horan, the Ulster champions led by two points. When they extended that to three, Mayo knew they had their backs to the wall. But they responded like real champions and for the final fourteen minutes they got down to brass tacks, with Cora Staunton and last year’s captain Diane O’Hora showing the way.
O’Hora’s goal, her second?, was a gem, skilful, cheeky and perfectly executed , and opened up the way for a barrage, including another typical Cora Staunton goal, to complete her hat-trick. In all she bagged 3-6 in a virtuoso performance that made up for her cruel disappointment in last year’s final when, injured, she made a token appearance before being substituted.
Mayo are useful throughout the field and while Staunton and O’Hora (who chalked up a highly impressive 2-3) are particularly effective up front, they would not prosper without the service provided from outfield. And so Mayo are in the final again, where they meet either Meath or Waterford, last year’s defeated finalists.
They have a chance, but one can imagine how determined Waterford will be if they get a chance to avenge last year’s surprise defeat. Indeed, as an exercise in planting feet right back on the ground, it might be no harm to reflect on this thought: Mayo’s victory of last year is consigned to history and that All-Ireland medal could in time look very lonely on its own.
FAMILIAR RING SO
it’s Galway v. Kerry in the All-Irleand football final on September 24th! That has a familiar comforting ring about it, though I suspect John O’Mahony would have preferred Armagh.
Kerry came into the series with lots of question marks hanging over them. These were summed up very succinctly by Ger O’Keeffe, a Kerry captain of the seventies, during one of the breaks on Saturday’s replay, when he said one never knew what to expect from them.
Well, on Saturday in the second half and again in extra time they really came good: facing down the barrel of a gun, they found reserves of fortitude and resolve not many of their followers would have given them credit for. A draw, a replay and extra time can be the makings of All-Ireland champions and I am sure it would be a mouth watering prospect to John O’Mahony who knows better than most just how beneficial to Galway was the Connacht replay game against Roscommon in 1998. We can take it Kerry have gained an incalculable momentum but the advantage has yet to be won. Why? I hear you ask. Well, dear friends, winning major football matches has probably more to do with those little cells in the brain than all the huff and puff on the training ground.
Look at it like this: Kerry now know they are good, maybe even believe they are better than they really are. The media have seen and will also believe. But more important than all of that, Galway also know Kerry are really good. And if that doesn’t bring the required response in preparation from the Tribesmen I will eat my favourite baseball hat. Which I not to say I believe Galway will, as I predicted last December, win the title. No, there is much to mull over on the next three weeks before a final commitment.
Meanwhile, there is enough promise to be going on with: the clash between the best full-forward in the country, one Padraig Joyce, and the best full back currently playing football, Seamus Moynihan, for instance.
*This article first appeared in The Western People newspaper. Several articles on the success of the Mayo ladies’ football team at national level from the same pen.