Familiar foes stand in Galway's way of All Ireland final spot

Galway sharpshooter Tracey Leonard and Ciara McManamon of Mayo will meet again on Sunday. 			Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Galway sharpshooter Tracey Leonard and Ciara McManamon of Mayo will meet again on Sunday. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Croke Park will be the third different venue to host a meeting of Galway and Mayo ladies senior footballers this season when the sides face off in this year's championship with a place in the All Ireland final up for grabs.

It is an historic occasion - the first time Croke Park will host the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-finals, and it is a double bill cracking worthy of the famous venue.

On Sunday at 2pm Connacht rivals Galway and Mayo will lock horns before the reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin battle it out with National League division one holders Cork.

Galway hold the upper hand over Mayo so far this season, winning two of their meetings this year. They saw off their neighbours in the league in Castlebar in March and again in the replay of the Connacht final, which took place in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick after the first game in Castlebar ended in draw.

The Tribeswomen will be confident of making it three wins from four to book their first appearance in the game's showpiece since 2005 when they lost to Cork, having won the title the previous year.

It has been an impressive season so far for Galway. The spring saw them make the league final, where they came up just short against Cork going down 1-12 to 2-7. Over the course of the round-robin series, they won six from seven to top the standings at the end of that phase of the competition. Their only defeat in that run was at the hands of All Ireland champions Dublin in round six.

Tim Rabbitt's side has scored an impressive 8-58 in their five championship outings - the one minor blot was being held to a draw by Mayo in the Connacht final at the end of June. However they could point to the long break between their previous outing in the league final and that game as reason for some ring-rustiness.

However, they made no mistake at the second time of asking in the provincial decider, dispatching Mayo by seven points in Limerick when running out 3-7 to 0-9 winners. In that game Tracey Leonard bagged 2-3 of her side's total - the Galway sharpshooter having hit 3-25 in the championship to date with 2-9 of that tally coming in both of those games against Mayo.

She will also head into this one on the back of scoring 1-5 in Galway's quarter-final win over Waterford in a rain sodden Pearse Park Longford a fortnight ago - where Galway were tested for long periods by the division two league champions. Galway led 1-6 to 1-4 at the break, but showed their greater experience in the second half to hold Waterford to just a goal in the final 30 minutes while adding seven points of their own.

After their Connacht final victory Galway saw off Kerry and Westmeath in the All Ireland series group stages. They showed plenty of heart and fighting spirit when the came from 1-8 to 0-1 down after 20 minutes to run out 1-14 to 1-10 winners over Kerry in round one in Portlaoise. They hit 1-11 without reply each side of half-time in that game, with Tracey Leonard once again their go-to player, as she finished up with seven points to her name. Louise Ward hit the back of the net in that win, while Aine McDonagh, Mairead Seoighe and Megan Glynn all chipped in with two points each in a memorable comeback.

They had things much easier in their second group stage game seeing off Westmeath by 13 points in Mullingar, winning by 2-13 to 1-3. Roisin Leonard did the main damage this time on the scoreboard, hitting 1-4, with Tracey kicking four minors on the day to book their place in the last eight.

However Sunday's game against Mayo will be a tougher test for Rabbitt's charges. Their fellow Connacht outfit has found form over the last few weeks. They came back from their loss in the provincial decider to see off Tyrone and then a fancied Donegal side in the group stages of the championship, and followed that up with a hard-fought win over Armagh in the quarter-final to set up Sunday's showdown in Croke Park.

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