Mayo’s footballing twins Ciara and Clodagh McManamon had both played massive parts in the county’s victory over Donegal a fortnight ago, but on the bus home there was a massive shock in store as their next round opponents were unveiled.
Cavan’s win over Armagh in the opening game of Group 1 looked to have sealed their progress to the last eight, but watching TG4’s live stream on their mobile phones, the Mayo girls were stunned to see Cork turned over by Armagh, which sent the Orchard County through instead.
Mayo and Armagh meet today (SATURDAY ) at 1pm at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford, as part one of a double-header that features Galway and Waterford on the same bill.
Today’s winners will meet in the TG4 All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park on 25 August, and no doubt the Mayo squad will be tuned in again on the way home to see if there’s another shock.
“None of us could believe what was happening,” said Clodagh. “But they are a brilliant team. They have the Mackin sisters, Caroline O’Hanlon, we know they are a great team.
“When Cavan beat them, in our heads we thought we would surely have Cavan. But we have Armagh and it’s going to be a tough one.”
Although the McManamons are identical twins, there will always be a small distance between them.
The 15 minutes that separated their arrival 27 years ago means Clodagh is the younger of the two.
The Burrishoole natives have never been away from some sort of ball game. Both sisters represented Ireland on the racquetball courts, while Clodagh later had a particular interest in handball, which saw her take a year away from football to play at the 2015 World Championships in Canada.
It is only recently that she decided to quit all other sports in order to focus her efforts on the green and red jersey.
“Handball and racquetball are great for speed, agility and coordination,” said Clodagh.
“I wouldn’t have thought about it but it must have helped us avoid serious injury. The same as anyone else, we have had a few sprained ankles and fingers, but we have been very lucky.
“We haven’t been out of sport for longer than a couple of weeks at a time with injury.”
McManamon’s identity was always entwined with sport though. Her career path was unclear until midway through her Leaving Cert when she chose the PE teaching route. That choice resulted in a few years studying at UL before she continued into a Masters in Sports Performance, where a thesis studying the strength profile of contemporary and Irish dancers brought her down another route.
“I have never done any dancing, I had no connection with it, I just liked the sound of it,” said Clodagh.
“I don’t know many footballers who are dancers but they are definitely some of the fittest athletes out there. They train so hard. They are very strong because their legs are so strong.
“There would be a lot of common physical attributes between dancers and footballers.”
Positioned in the six and eight jerseys for Mayo, the McManamons continue to have each other’s back, but this year is turning into a very special one for the duo.
“We have played together since day one so we are used to each other at this stage,” said Clodagh, who is usually stationed at midfield
“It is great to have someone else there from the same house. Going to training together and all that. She understands what I am going through. It is someone there to talk to as well.
“Ciara hadn’t been playing for Mayo for the past few years because she is a nurse. But she somehow has managed it with work this year. She doesn’t miss any training. She is at all the games. She feels really lucky to be able to play this year.
“It was weird for the few years when she wasn’t playing. We have been playing together for the club since we were eight or nine.”
The McManamons will be central to Mayo’s chances of reaching the final four of TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship for the first time since 2017. Mayo got all the way to the final before they were beaten by Dublin that year.
They lost to Connacht rivals Galway at this stage in 2018 and Armagh provide a much less familiar proposition.
“It’s going to be a good game. The two teams are going in off two great wins.
“They are after beating Cork which are one of the two top teams in the country. They will probably be favourites.
“We will just have to see what happens.”