Mayo got over their heartbreaking loss to Galway in the Connacht final with a 24 point win over Tyrone in their qualifier game a few weeks ago, while Mayo were totally dominant in that game, the return to action of Claire Egan after missing the whole league campaign and the championship up to that was one of the most pleasing things for Mayo manager Frank Browne.
"It's great, she's such a warrior and worked so hard to get herself back from what was a horrible injury, there are many people who would have thrown their hat after an injury like that. It shows the character and drive to win from Claire, which she has always shown. She has put in a massive effort to get back to fittness and it's a huge boost to us going into this game against Kerry."
The night before Mayo lost out to Galway in a epic Connacht final, the girls from the Kingdom pulled off the first big surprise of championship beating Cork to claim the Munster crown. "No more than us going into the Connacht final where beating Galway would have been a huge thing for us, for Kerry getting that win over Cork finally was a massive thing for them. It has really put them up there now and we know we'll have our hands full against what is a very good side."
Learning from game to game
Mayo's two championship games so far have been very different affairs, the narrow loss to Galway was followed up by the big win over Tyrone, but they treated each game exactly the same way by giving the opposition the respect and planning they deserved. Browne said: "The Tyrone game, I suppose afterwards people will look at it and it said that you had it handy and won well, but that was a potential banana skin for us. They are a tricky side, we got off to a good start getting 1-3 early on. But when we came in at half-time we knew that a goal could have brought them back into it so we tried to go and kill them off early in the second half. We hit them for 2-3 in the opening five minutes of the second half and that was what we wanted to do. Those five minutes before half-time and the 10 minutes after the break, they're what I'd call the championship quarter, where you either put yourself in a position to see out the game or you're chasing it and it can be very hard to chase back a lead."
Mayo learned plenty from the loss to Galway going into that game and will use it again on Saturday against Kerry. "Look if you want to be cruel about it, and that's what sport is, at times, cruel. We were three points up, with a player advantage going down the last 10 minutes and we didn't make it count. You have to make it count. But in the dressing room after the game, we spoke about it and we knew we were there or there abouts with them. Before that game we didn't really know where we were exactly, we felt we were in a good place but we weren't sure, but we knew when that game was over, that we weren't that far away and we've been working off that since.
Not just the Cora show
Cora Staunton has once again been the star of the show for Mayo, scoring for fun in the championship, but Browne knows there's a lot more to Mayo's game than just Cora. "She's a one of a kind, we'll probably never see her likes again. From the outside, it looks like the Cora show. But when you go back and look at the tape, there was a lot of work done by the other girls to get her in scoring positions for a lot of her scores. When you have the best shooter in the game, that's what you have to do, create the space for her to take her shots. In any team sport if you win the game, the team don't care if one person scores 1-15 and you win the game, they just want to win."
Two of Staunton's scores stood out in Browne's mind which showed her individual class too. "In that game she kicked two scores from the outside of the 45m line, one with the left foot and one with the right. If someone did that in the men's game you'd be hearing about it for weeks. But she's just so dedicated, she practices every day, she's never late for training, never misses a session, and she dedicates her life to be the best of the best. She lives the right lifestyle, while you or I may stop into the shop for a snack and grab a can of coke and a bar, she's getting water and an apple. She's just so dedicated, it's an inspiration for everyone, and something every young girl and boy can learn from if they want to be the best."
Kerry got the better of Mayo in the league back in the spring, but there is not much you can read into that meeting, Browne said. "At the time we were in very heavy training and I think they were too, it was just a case of two sides going out and playing a game that day, whereas on Saturday this is where it really happens. We're not that far off we think, and we'll be ready to give our all as we always do when we go out on to the field."