STAR PERFORMER Mayo’s Danielle Caldwell was presented with the Player of the Match award by Liam McDonagh (President, Connacht LGFA) last Sunday. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Castlebar on Sunday, pockets of supporters congregated in MacHale Park, trying to make sense of what they had just seen.
In the dressing-room area, the Galway team and management were locked behind closed doors, contemplating the epic battle just ended, while Mayo were busily going about their business.
The provincial final had ended in a draw and heart-rates were slowly returning to somewhere near normality.
In the tunnel under the stand, Mayo manager Peter Leahy was harbouring mixed emotions. He was disappointed not to have won the match, but massively enthused by his team’s performance and the style of their display.
“Of course we’re disappointed,” he told The Mayo News.
“We came to win the Connacht title and that didn’t happen. There’s no getting away from that, however we were excellent out there for long periods today.
“Galway got an early goal but that didn’t surprise us. Galway are one of the top four teams in the country and they have been singled out as one of the favourites to win the All-Ireland. However, we showed everyone how good we are ourselves.
“A hard-fought battle like that will only benefit our women and they’re already chomping at the bit for the replay,” he added. “We’re already preparing for it and whenever it is, we’ll be there looking to play our very best.”
Leahy’s team had been dealt a number of blows throughout the game, none more significant than the red card flashed to team captain Niamh Kelly in the last ten minutes.
“A red card was very harsh,” observed Leahy. “It was a yellow card surely, but a red card was very harsh. Under no circumstances was it a tackle meant to injure the opponent and we’re very disappointed with the red card. But we’ll just get on with it,” he added before turning his attention to the player of the match, Danielle Caldwell.
“Danielle has been magnificent all season and how she didn’t get on the Team of The League is beyond me. She’s hugely dedicated to the cause and flies home from the UK for games and training. She’s our go-to player; she’s the woman who takes up the opposition’s marquee forward every time and she was magnificent today.
“We’ve been telling her how good she is for a long time, maybe now she’ll believe us.
Across the corridor, the Galway gathering was breaking up and team boss Tim Rabbitte wore the expression of a relieved man.
“We’re lucky to have come out of it with a draw. Mayo were better than us today and deserved to win it, so we can count ourselves lucky. There’s never much between the teams and we knew that coming here.
“We were a bit flat at times and Mayo were really up for it. That didn’t surprise us and we said all week we’d be happy with a one-point win and we nearly got that at the end.”