“THE championship starts next Saturday”. And with those words, Mayo ladies manager, Frank Browne, confirmed what most of us had been thinking. Next weekend’s TG4 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Monaghan in Mullingar will see the serious business of this year’s competition get underway.
There are a number of factors to contend with between now and then for Browne and his management team who must plan without the experienced Marcella Heffernan. The defender will miss the game after breaking her wrist during last Saturday’s six point victory over Dublin.
Browne will be also be anxiously awaiting news from Austria later this week with four of the ladies football panel lining out with the county soccer team in the UEFA Cup on Thursday. The quartet – Yvonne Byrne, Cora Staunton, Aoife Herbert and Michelle Ruane – will fly back to Ireland on Friday, train with Browne’s squad that evening, and return to Austria following Saturday’s quarter-final.
“Monaghan are probably the hardest draw and after beating Galway last weekend they’ll feel that they have a right good chance,” said Browne. “We actually played them in a practice game a few months ago and won by a couple of points but it was a four quarter game and we won’t be reading anything into it. They’re a typical Ulster team, fast on the ball, and they play a short, possession-based game.
“Our plan has been and will be to drive forward,” he added. “We do this in the belief that we’ll score more than the opposition. This type of game does mean that we tend to leave gaps at the back but we have a very solid full-back line. They were excellent against Dublin last weekend when we were struggling in the second half.”
Mayo emerged from the qualifiers with an unbeaten record after wins over Waterford, Kerry and Dublin.
“The qualifiers gave us competitive games and allowed us to find a midfield partner for Claire [Egan]. In my opinion Ciara McDermott was the player of the match against Dublin and has slotted into midfield perfectly. We haven’t been playing particularly well but we’ve been winning. We’ve been using a countdown system in the last few weeks and the way we see it now, we’re two games away from the bus journey to Croke Park.”