Tough test awaits ladies against champions

LGFA: All Ireland Senior Football Championship Semi-Final

Eyes on the prize: Mayo will be looking for big games from the likes of Niamh Kelly against Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile.

Eyes on the prize: Mayo will be looking for big games from the likes of Niamh Kelly against Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile.

The last time that these sides met was in the final four of the league back in June and the Dubs ran out a comprehensive 4-15 to 0-10 winners in the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.

It was a rude lesson for Mayo against the defending All Ireland champions, who took their chances for goals when they came up and Mayo failed to do so with their own, leaving a much bigger gap on the scoreboard at the end than there was in general play on the day.

They will get their chance to get revenge on Dublin tomorrow afternoon when they take them on once again, this time in Croke Park - and playing on such a stage is what the players deserve, according to their manager Michael Moyles. "We were saying these girls have worked very hard. When you are growing up whether you’re a boy or a girl or whatever, if you’re playing GAA, you want to play in Croke Park and when that opportunity arises, you just have to take it."

Mayo are one of the few teams who have have seen a game go right down to a free kick taking competition to decide the outcome this year and it is something they will be ready for if the need arises again tomorrow afternoon, Moyles added: “At the end of every session we have our free takers taking frees, we have four or five taking them at the end of every session, we are lucky we have such good free takers. You have Grace Kelly, Shauna Howley, Rachael Kearns, Sarah Rowe, we are blessed in that regard."

Mayo have hit the highs and lows in the championship so far this season. They had a solid win over Cavan in round one, before being taken to free kicks by Monaghan the following week. They followed that up with a defeat to Armagh to round off the group stages, before they put in their performance of the year to date, beating Galway in the All Ireland quarter-final.

For Dublin it has been a far less dramatic progression to the last four of the competition. They put 6-12 past Waterford in round one of the group stages and then saw off Tyrone 2-18 to 1-11 in their final group game. In the quarter-finals they were given a stern test by Donegal, winning by five points in the end on a score of 2-12 to 2-7 - but having won the last number of All Ireland titles they will go into the game as firm favourites for victory.

Mayo won't be giving anything easy to them though. Over the past few months the Mayo management team and the players have got to know each other and the management have shown themselves not afraid to mix things up game on game and they will have a plan to make sure they push Dublin all the way in this one.

If Mayo are to get over the line on Saturday they will need big performances in every position on the field. Up front, they possess an attack crew that will threaten any side in the game, with the likes of Rachel Kearns, Grace Kelly, Sarah Rowe, Niamh Kelly, Shauna Howley and Lisa Cafferkey all top players who can cause damage on the scoreboard.

Keeping their discipline and ensuring they don't pick up needless yellow cards and go down to 14 players for a ten minute period of time - which against a side like Dublin could prove a deciding factor - is something that Mayo have been keeping a close check on this year as the season progressed, their manager added, saying: "For us to be competitive and for us to get to where we want to get, we have to have 15 players on the field and we are under no illusions."

As for monitoring when players have picked up ticks from the ref and could be sailing close to the wind, they are constantly keeping tabs on that, he added: "It takes a lot of focus to be honest, from the management team, but we are lucky we have a good management team who are there to keep an eye on the ticks. It’s relayed down to us to the line, so it is something you have to keep an eye on constantly, because we know what happened in the league game against Galway where we got a yellow card and that brought them right back into the game and game management there is very, very important."

Mayo will need to be at their best to book a spot in the All Ireland final, but is a challenge they are ready for and ready to show their best.


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