THE final whistle in Mayo’s Senior Cup semi-final victory over Lifford ten days ago gave the squad two reasons to celebrate. There was the not inconsiderable matter of finally being able to escape the torrential wind and rain that could have got the better of lesser teams, but mostly there was the relief of getting past the semi-final stage at the second time of asking.
Last year’s defeat to Peamount still cut deep and made the Lifford victory all the sweeter.
“It meant an awful lot to us,” admitted team captain Michelle Ruane. “Last year we lost a semi-final and we didn’t want that feeling again so it was great to get over it. We used last year to bring us on. We didn’t like the feeling of losing that game and none of us wanted to feel like that again. All the girls agreed and we knew then that we were going to make a good go of it this year,” admitted the S & F Utd star, who was one of the Mayo ladies who spoke in the aftermath of the Peamount game about driving on again this season.
”We’re fitter this year, we’re training harder and working so much harder, we really want it. We’re really getting on awful well too, you can see that on the pitch. Girls that would nearly have hated each other with club rivalry a couple of years ago are really gelling now for Mayo.”
The Straide & Foxford United centre-back plays on the same college team as two of her colleagues in the Mayo back four, Karen Lily and Annette Gallagher at Sligo IT. Michelle’s sister, Deirdre, and Mayo striker Emma Mullin are also involved in a strong Sligo side.
They have encountered Saturday’s opponents UCD at college level and Mayo turned them over in last year’s quarter-final. Michelle Ruane admits it will be a serious test at Richmond Park next weekend.
“I’d know a bit about our opponents, it’s not going to be easy at all on Saturday. Last year’s game against them when we beat them in the quarter-final was one of the toughest games I’ve ever played in. They had gone for a good while undefeated before we beat them. They didn’t like it and they’ll be out to make up for it.
“I can’t wait for the final though, it’ll be the biggest game I’ve ever played in. We’ve training tonight (Friday) and there’ll be a bit of excitement there. It will probably kick in even more so next week. But we have to concentrate on the match, especially on Saturday, think about only that.”
As captain of the team, the 21 year old Recreation and Leisure student has some added responsibility but, in truth, Michelle Ruane feels it is an easy team to lead.
“It’s a fantastic honour to be captain, especially with such a great team. When you’re out on the pitch captain doesn’t mean a whole lot because everyone tries really hard. I suppose you offer words of encouragement here and there.”
And of course there is the honour. Should Mayo win then Michelle Ruane will become the first ever Mayo player, in the women’s or men’s game, to lift an FAI Senior Cup.
“One thing I often thought about years ago was lifting the cup after a national final. We want to do it this year, all of us, and it would be great to go down in history as the first Mayo team to win it. To lift the cup would be great, it would be a dream come true.”