Having a summer back at home, albeit studying for her final accountancy exams, was a great help to Mayo captain Sarah Tierney who had to head back to Dublin recently for work. But having football to take her mind of the study in the summer was something for which she was grateful. "I was sitting my final acountancy exams in the summer so I was home based which was great during the summer. I'm working in Deloitte in my second year there, it can tough going up and down for training. I found football a great release when I was studying whereas some of the others would have been just studying 12 hours a day."
With the evenings closing in you know it has been a good year when you are still training, the 25-year-old Hollymount player says, "Yes we're delighted to be still training and the form is good in the camp and everyone is looking forward to it now. We were very disappointed last year losing in the semifinal and the circumstances that we lost it in and hopefully it goes our way on the day on Sunday."
As for the Croke Park factor their run out there in the spring will be a help she thinks, but acknowledges that Dublin will have plenty more experience there than her team. "Looking forward to it, I'm delighted we got a run out in March in the league against Dublin, they have been in the last four finals and will have more experience on the day, it's all about us keeping cool heads and working hard like we have in the last few weeks."
Learning from last year
Last year's defeat to Dublin in the semifinal is something that they all were very hurt by, but it is something that they have learned from to come back stronger again this year. "Went in at half time [in that game] and knew we weren't performing and we were like, what have we to lose, we were down by seven points and we were the better team in the second half. It was just unfortunate that they got a free right at the end, we were bitterly disappointed in it, and everyone in their heart and soul knew that we were well able to come back if we built the team and the management, and we all worked together and last year was the stepping stones for this year, it let us build a base for this year."
Having already beaten Dublin in the same venue will be something for Mayo to draw on this Sunday, but it was a do-or-die game for them in making sure they stayed in division one of the league when the sides met in that game. "We had a poor league looking back, things weren't going right and we didn't know why it was going wrong, considering last year we had won every game in the league and trying to compare what went wrong. When we played Dublin it was a huge game for us, because we were facing relegation and we had to get a result in it. Then we'd a lay off and we just got blown away in the game against Galway, nothing went right, to be honest it was the best thing that could have happened when we look back. I know we have no silverware from it yet, but we took a long look at ourselves and started focusing on ourselves and working harder, we didn't work hard enough for the Connacht final.
Having the time to get things right
The structure of the Ladies Football championship saw Mayo have a really long lay-off between the end of the league and the start of the championship, and it is very hard to keep up a proper tempo with that lay-off, says Tierney. "It is, you're playing in house games, but it's not the same as championship game, and you're playing the odd challenge game but it's not the same. We had a big break, whereas we had just a month between the Connacht final and qualifier game which was probably just right and it let us build. We had a slow start in the Kildare game, but we got into it and got going. Then in the Donegal game we hit them hard and they were coming in after a long lay off themselves from the Ulster final and we took them when no-one rated us. At the end of the day we believed in ourselves and went out and played our game. Then the Cork game, we had beaten them in the league last year down in Cork, and that was a stepping stone for us and the younger girls who were able to say that we beat the All Ireland champions before so we can go and have a crack at them. It was a great win, but Dublin are another step up again and they blew Kerry off the pitch in their semifinal and I think Dublin have improved a lot under their new management, we'll have to be on our toes on the day."
As for Sunday it is all about taking it as just another game she says. "We are looking forward to the occasion and a lot of us have never experienced it before, but we have to look at it as just another game. We lost to Galway, our focus turned to Kildare, we beat them, focus turned to Donegal, we beat them and turned to Cork, and now Dublin, we just have to do our usual preparation, but we just have to go out and keep calm heads."
Mayo have shown their ability to keep their heads calm on the field the way they have reacted to sinbinnings in their last few games. "The big difference between this year and last year, is that last year we might have panicked and this year we had calm heads, in the last game the sin bin happened and we went up the other end and got a goal and pushed on. You need to push on in games like that, because if you try and sit back they'll come on to you and hit you hard. But hopefully the next day won't have any sin-binnings."