Galway face current champions Dublin in the Lidl All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship final on Sunday (4pm ).
While Dublin are bidding for a third title in succession, Galway's manager Timmy Rabbitt, in his first year, has brought his team to its first All-Ireland decider since 2005. It is also the first since then that a team other than Dublin and Cork has contested the final.
Playing some superb counter-attacking football, Galway are full value for their place in the final. Their late win over Mayo in the semi-final, thanks to an incredible pressure free from corner forward Roisin Leonard, led to scenes of unrivalled joy.
Having led for most of the game, courtesy of two early goals from Mairead Seoighe, Galway were pegged back by Mayo, but showed their resilience and belief to get the vital score when it was most important. In a somewhat controversial decision in the final minute of the game, referee Seamus Mulvihill, having blown for a late free for Mayo, changed his mind when realising the Mayo player had hopped the ball twice ,and reversed his decision.
Dublin are deservedly hot favourites, having won the last two finals and having defeated Galway twice this year. Dublin continue to show just how strong they are, and that is the challenge for Galway this weekend.
Playing with an effective game plan, Rabbitt’s side has only been beaten twice this season - in that league game against Dublin and the league final to Cork. Mick Bohan’s side had struggled to break down an organised and extremely fit Galway side, winning by just four points. Since then, Galway have defeated Mayo in the Connacht final after a replay, along with Kerry, Westmeath and Waterford, before Mayo again in the semi-final.
That semi-final win over Mayo was a first for these ladies in Croke Park, while Dublin has featured in the last five All-Ireland finals as well as a number of league games in the home of football. Many of the Dublin squad will have plenty of experience of playing in Croke Park, so they will have a significant advantage in that regard.
However, Galway captain Tracey Leonard and her team will not shirk from the huge challenge ahead. They have leaders and experience all over the field - Nicola Ward and Barbara Hannon man the middle of the defence, flanked either side by the tackling ability and pace of Sinead Burke, Sarah Lynch, Orla Murphy and the two Cooneys, Fabienne and Charlotte. Management face a tough decision to choose which one of these players must be cut from the starting team. Added to this defence is Louise Ward and the talented Aine McDonagh in midfield, and one thing for sure is that Galway are not going to be overly exposed at the back.
Galway’s scoring ability is showcased by the forwards. The two Leonards, Tracey and Roisin, along with Sarah Conneally make up one of the most feared full forward lines in the country - not forgetting the half forward line with the hard-working Olivia Divilly, added to the industry of both Megan Glynn and Mairead Seoighe. After her two goals against Mayo, Seoighe will be running out on the hallowed Croke Park turf full of confidence that she can help kill off the reigning champions.
In hoping to bring home the county’s first ladies' title since 2004, this Galway team will not back down at any stage of this match. Tim Rabbitt, along with his coaches have instilled a belief in this Galway team that has been developed over the last three years. In both the drawn game and semi-final win over Mayo, as well as the league final loss to Cork earlier in the season, these players have shown themselves to be a side that does not know when it is beaten.
Whether these ladies come home with or without the Brendan Martin Cup, they have brought the county to the next level, and have given their supporters an incredible year of football.