If you fancy some early afternoon entertainment before the box office attraction on Saturday evening, then get to McHale Park early on Saturday and give your support to the Mayo ladies’ team on Saturday afternoon as they open their Connacht championship campaign.
On paper there looks like there can be only one winner in this game, but Mayo manager Kevin Reidy is not buying into that at all. “A lot of people are saying that but I wouldn’t be taking it that way at all. This is championship football and you can’t take anyone lightly or your going to be in for a shock.” There are a number of reasons that Leitrim can’t be taken lightly and one of them is the man who will be wearing the banisteoir bib in the other dugout on Saturday, Frank Browne. While Reidy has put his own stamp on the Mayo side this year since taking over, Browne will know the ins and outs of this Mayo side better than any other manager Mayo will face this year after guiding them to the All Ireland final in 2007, before being let go from the position at the end of the season. And the Mayo girls who worked with Browne will know that he will have his side in top condition going into this game as they try to catch Mayo on the hop.
Learning from the league
Mayo have already reached the league final this year, where they were comfortably dispatched by Cork in the final. Reidy said before that game, it was a test for his side to see how far they had come in comparison to the best there is around and his side fell a long way short. But he is confident that they have learned enough to take things on from there. “Cork have been on the go for six years with the same management team and mostly the same players, they have their style down to a tee. We were physically way off them that day and it’s something we have worked on, they were taking the balls off us with ease so we have looked at it and worked hard to be ready if we meet them again.”
After that league final defeat Mayo took a few weeks break from training so everybody could recharge the batteries and come back fresh for championship action, which Reidy thinks has worked out well for them. “It was good the girls needed it, the break was planned all along because they had been going hard at it since early January. Everyone was fit and hungry when they came back to training and we have had a number of good intense sessions since then and they are ready for action on Saturday.”
There was no side picked at the time of going to press, but Reidy was happy that there were so many girls putting themselves in contention for a place in the side. “We have 29 in the panel and everyone is giving their all to get into the starting 15, both Helena Lohan and Claire O’Hara will miss the game, but everyone else is fighting fit and ready to take on the challenge if called upon.”
Mayo will go into the game as favourites but Leitrim have been coming a long way in the ladies’ game in recent years getting to the All Ireland junior final in 2006 and a year later winning the Intermediate championship, and with Browne’s knowledge of the ladies’ game in the county it could make for a exciting clash on Saturday afternoon.