Mayo women aiming to make some history
THE Mayo women’s soccer team are set to make history this week when they become the first ever team from the county to take part in the UEFA Cup, at any level.
The Mayo team qualified for the competition by virtue of another historic achievement when they won the WFAI Senior Cup last December and will aim to qualify from a group of four this week in Austria.
The Mayo team will be in a group with Neulengbach of Austria, Klub Sportowy (Poland) and Hibernian (Scotland).
Topping the group would book a place for Mayo in another qualifying group in October where they would face, among others, Arsenal. However, Mayo manager Aidan Flatley is acutely aware that the standard will be a big step-up from what Mayo are used to.
“The standard will definitely be high and we’re going into the unknown. But unlike the other teams we don’t have the experience of playing in a national league. It will be a great experience though, it will show us how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.”
Mayo have a couple of tricky situations to overcome. Firstly, they will be missing leading scorer Emma Mullin, who is playing with the Irish Colleges side in the World Student Games in Thailand, and then there was the uncertainty over the availability of the four Mayo Ladies players on the soccer panel.
Yvonne Byrne, Aoife Herbert, Cora Staunton and soccer captain Michelle Ruane are all due to play with Mayo in Saturday’s quarter-final and they will have to fly home from Austria for that game. They will return for the final group game but will miss the clash with Klub Sportowy.
“We’ve plans put in place but we do have a panel of 18 girls and I’m very confident that the girls that come in are more than capable of doing so. It was nice for Emma to be called up. I talked to her about it and I said we’d support her regardless of what decision she made. In fairness it was a hard one to turn down for her,” admitted Flatley.
According to Aidan Flatley, the three teams Mayo are due to play [Klub Sportowy on Thursday, Neulengbach on Saturday and Hibs on Tuesday] are all of a high standard.
“Each of the teams play in national leagues in their own country. The Austrian side have won their national league and cup in four of the last five years. They’ve been in this UEFA competition for the last three years and they are a semi-pro side. Hibs have won the Scottish league and cup for the last three years so there’s little doubting their ability,” added the Straide & Foxford United men’s manager.
Mayo famously defeated UCD last December in the WFAI Cup final. Mayo’s defence of that trophy is underway after they beat Limerick in the last 16 in July. They will play their quarter-final against Lifford of Clare in October. In that competition they no longer have Ballina Town players available to them as Ballina themselves are in the WFAI Cup.
But Aidan Flatley and co will have the Ballina contingent available to them in Austria.
A total of 18 players will travel along with a backroom team of seven. The Mayo boss admits that it’s a trip that everyone is really looking forward to.
“It will be a great experience for players and for management. It will be a new adventure and we will enjoy it. It might not ever happen again, hopefully it will, but you have to enjoy it while you can.”