Mayo and Galway will renew their old rivalry on Sunday afternoon in Tuam Stadium in the Connacht LGFA Senior Football Championship Final.
Both sides will be heading into the game after a long break from competitive action following the culmination of their league campaigns where Mayo reached the league semi-final against Meath, with Galway being eliminated from that competition in the group stages.
The counties faced off in the league round robin stages this year, where Mayo won putting six goals past Galway in a 6-6 to 2-8 win over Maghnus Breathnach's side, that sent Mayo into the knock-out stages. Mayo recorded wins over Donegal, Galway and Westmeath in the league, with Galway's sole victory coming against the midlanders.
Mayo manager Michael Moyles is expecting a strong challenge from Galway on Sunday, and a tough encounter for his side, telling the Mayo Advertiser: "I suppose when the league finished we thought we had loads of time, but it has come on us fairly fast. The girls are looking forward to Sunday, predations have been going well and it will be a good test. Galway seem to be back to their full strength for their first time in three or four years, they seem to have an awful lot of girls back, so it definitely will be a good litmus test for us to see where we are at the moment.
He added: “When you see the likes of Tracey Leonard back for the first time in three years, the difficulty for Galway is, who they start - they have five or six players who can be in any county team. They are fully stacked and fully strong, but as I said that is a great test for us to see where we are and it will give girls - and there are girls there in the Mayo panel who have never played a championship game or a senior game for Mayo - give them a taste of what is expected, but we have full intentions of going there to win the game and nothing less."
Moyles will have to do without the services of a number of key players such as Niamh Kelly, Sarah Rowe and Grace Kelly who are unable to commit to the championship season due to their involvement in the expanding AFLW in Australia, but all parties tried as hard as they could to make it work for them to play, Moyles told us.
"It wasn’t from lack of trying on both sides and I have to really mention on the girls' behalf, they did everything they could. But obviously they are in contract from June. Their league has expanded, their season has changed and up until three weeks before they came home, everything was in place for them to rejoin the Mayo panel - but with the season changing and the clubs needing them back in July for pre-season if they were going to come back the girls were left in a situation where they have to make a choice.
"For us, for building for the future for girls it is hard for them coming in for part of the season, but for part of a competition it was just a no go. The girls are devastated, we’re devastated - but you just have to move on. They are great servants for Mayo and it might not be the last time you see them in a Mayo jersey but just not this year."
The Crossmolina man was happy with the league and in particular the chance for younger players to get game time in a competitive environment. He said: "We had an awful lot of newer girls in, it was kind of like a rest or regeneration of the team and people were unsure how we would do in the league.
"The girls took to their task very well, we are very lucky with the centre of excellence which is a great training facility so we are not going from one place to another, we use the dome a good bit for coaching and we have a good coaching team in there, and a lot of work was done by the girls and the league went well.
"People were looking at other teams missing this one and that one, we were missing six of our starting 15 that started the All Ireland semi-final missing for most of the games, it was great to get new players involved and they didn’t look out of place and it was just about bringing that on another step because championship is another level.
"We are very lucky we have brought in four girls from the minor set up and what you can say is that the work that is going on in clubs and in underage in Mayo is phenomenal, and the skill set that those girls have coming in helps massively and it softens the blow a small bit.
“The shop window for us is the club game, before Christmas we did four or five trials and we took in club players to play the minor team, and what that did was it let us see a lot of players, that is our shop window, that is where we go looking. We don’t got looking to other sports, we go looking to the club game and the minor set up.
"That is our platform up to senior and that is what we have used - we are very lucky in the fact that the minor management is very approachable and club managers have been very approachable and we continue to do that, and you can see there are a lot of players that have turned over from last year, due to long term injuries or retiring or Australia or different sport, and what we are trying to do is just get a fully committed side to football and look it is the starting point it is exciting but there is a lot of work to be done.
"The likes of Sorcha McCarney from Westport, Ciara Niland from Davitts, Jenna Mortimer and Sinead Walsh are in from the minors and there are another two or three girls there from the minors that have great futures in the Mayo jersey
"If you take last year as an example there are a lot of 17, 18, 19-year-olds, that is our future and the future of Mayo Ladies and this is what we are concentrating on at the moment."
Moyles has put together and impressive backroom team again this year with Peadar Gardiner coming on board recently to join Ger Cafferkey in the set up, and the level of coaching and preparation work is second to none from all sides of the project, he added.
"We are trying to convince girls that this is the best set up that they can get involved in in elite sports, we have the likes of Ger Cafferkey and Peadar Gardiner coaching, if you can come into that kind of set up, they are great footballers number one, but also great thinkers of the game - the coaching sessions are so well designed and done for a specific reason.
"We want the girls when they come into Mayo to feel like they are sacrificing enough, they are getting rewards for their sacrifice, we have Martin Connor there as the strength and conditioning coach who has been brilliant this year. We have people in the background really supporting the ladies and looking for them to do really well and we are very lucky in that regard.
"We have GPS systems, we have everything that we need to make it better, but is just the players now who get the benefit out of that and we will see them improve day in day out with the scaffolding put around them, that is the ideology around it.
“Our first 10 or 15 minutes of every session is our soft skills, it is great and we do work a lot of it, but if you are giving the ball away constantly you need to be very fit.
"We have a very good management team and coaching team there. Micheál Schlingermann is in with our coaching again, with top UEFA coaching badges we are very lucky with our coaching team and just want to pass it on to the girls, and the girls know every session they come to it is very well structured and they are getting something out of it, so they are walking off the training field feeling better than when they walked on."
But it is not just the coaching team who are leading the charge, it comes from the players too, demanding the best and wanting to be the best, says Moyles. "The girls, and even the girls who have come in since the minor campaign finished, have put their hand up and haven’t looked out of place.
"But look when you have the likes of Fiona McHale, Sinead Cafferkey, Lisa Cafferkey and Shauna Howley around and you are a 17 or 18 year old, those 17 and 18-year-olds are learning as much from their peers as they are from their coaches, so we’re in a good place, there is a lot of freshness around. Sunday will tell massively the story for us of where we are and where we need to get to and we're looking forward to it."