OUT IN FRONT Mayo’s Niamh Kelly gets to the ball ahead of Galway’s Laura Ahearne during Monday’s TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC quarter-final in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile
THE PA system pumping out U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ at the end of yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final must have rubbed salt into Galway wounds following their championship exit at the hands of nearest and dearest rivals Mayo at MacHale Park.
For Mayo, the song was more than appropriate – although the county had been bathed in rain for much of the previous 12 hours – it was indeed a beautiful day. Beating Galway in championship is a rare and wonderful achievement and doing so playing expansive, classy attacking football was the icing on the cake.
“We threw off the shackles,” Mayo manager Michael Moyles said afterwards.
“For the past few games we concentrated more on the opposition than ourselves and we changed that today. We went out to do what we do best and it paid off. “Some of our attacking play was very good and our spread of scorers in the first half was great to see.
“We went into the game without a number of players who lined out against Galway in the league, but the women who stepped in were excellent. We’ve been preaching about the quality of our panel for a while now, but we saw it in reality today.”
The first half saw Mayo play their best football in years.
The movement, hunger, speed and intensity was a joy to behold. Dayna Finn’s composure at full-back, Roisin Durkin’s ball-carrying, Kathryn Sullivan’s drive up the wing, Lisa Cafferky’s pace and football intelligence, Sinead Cafferky’s power, Sarah Rowe’s style and delivery, Niamh Kelly’s football genius, Grace Kelly’s imperious style and Shauna Howley’s finishing ability.
Throw in Fiona McHale’s priceless experience and Rachel Kearns’ God-given attacking threat, and one had the basis for a first half display which will live long in the memory.
Howley and Rowe kicked three points apiece, Grace Kelly landed one from downtown and Kearns raised two white flags, but the crucial score came after 23 minutes when Sinead Cafferky burst through the middle and nearly took the net off with a shot.
Galway were but a shadow of the team who had shone in earlier rounds of the campaign with shots sailing wide and others dropping short. They were rudderless and leaderless and Mayo took a 1-10 to 0-5 lead to the interval.
Galway needed to stop the rot urgently and almost did so in the early moments of the new half, but Laura Brennan pulled off a fabulous save to deny Olivia Divilly. Mairead Seoighe and Ailbhe Davoren kicked a point each but Mayo were comfortable when Grace Kelly and Sinead Cafferky did likewise. Ciara Whyte, Tamara O’Connor, Saoirse Lally and Finn were dealing with everything that came their way.
But Meghan Glynn set hearts racing when she careered through the middle after 41 minutes only for Brennan to produce an even better save than her earlier effort.
Galway desperately needed a goal and got it when Seoighe planted the ball in the top corner at the end of the third quarter. That closed the gap to seven points (1-7 to 1-14) and Mayo supporters were beginning to look towards the finish line.
The chasers launched reinforcements in the shape of Tracey and Roisin Leonard from the bench and gradually began to pare away the deficit. With four minutes left the gap was down to three points and Mayo were wasting chances at the other end.
Galway were sniffing for a goal, but Mayo refused to yield with Saoirse Lally writing her name in lights with two magnificent interventions when all seemed lost.
Mayo needed one more score to seal the deal, and they got it when the Cafferky sisters combined for Lisa to split the sticks and the roar of delight could be heard in their home kingdom of Kilmovee. It was a special afternoon in Castlebar.
What’s rare is wonderful and it was indeed a beautiful day.
THE corner-back from Westport was magnificent. Her perfectly-timed interventions decorated one of the finest defensive performances witnessed on Castlebar’s sacred ground for quite some time.
L Brennan; S Lally, D Finn, R Durkin; T O’Connor, F McHale, K Sullivan; C Whyte, S Cafferky (1-2); L Cafferky (0-1), S Howley (0-4, 1f), N Kelly; G Kelly (0-2), R Kearns (0-3, 2f), S Rowe (0-3).
Subs used: E Ronayne for Whyte, A Dowling for Rowe, M Reilly for Howley, D Caldwell for Sullivan, S Rowe for Kearns.
D Gower; L Ahearne, S Ní Loinsígh, S Molloy; C Cooney, K Geraghty, H Noone; S Divilly, A Davoren (0-1); O Divilly (0-1f), M Glynn (0-1), L Coen; N Ward, L Ward (0-2), K Slevin (0-2).
Subs used: M Seoíghe (1-3, 0-2f) for S Divilly, A Morrisey (0-1) for Coen, E Reaney for O Divilly, T Leonard for Glynn, R Leonard for Slevin.
Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan)
MAYO will now face All-Ireland champions Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final on the weekend of August 14/15.