St Brendan’s Park, in Birr, will host the next stage of the Mayo ladies’ senior team’s road towards a fifth All Ireland senior title and a first in a decade. On Saturday at 12.30pm they will face off against Kerry in the All Ireland quarter-final having seen off Westmeath with ease in the last round of qualifiers after they were beaten by Galway in the Connacht final in Tuam.
The Kingdom came into the game having dethroned Cork in the Munster championship for the first time in 10 years with a single point win in Castletownroche in July on a score of 1-16 to 1-15. William O’Sullivan’s team are one of the coming sides in ladies’ football, and apart from beating Cork in the Munster final they put up 8-25 on Clare in the provincial semi-final. They have a very dangerous attack with their full forward line of Louise Ni Mhuirtceartaigh, Patrice Dennehy, and Louise Galvin chipping in with 1-8 of their 1-16 total in the Munster final. Centre-half forward Deirdre Corridan also kicked three points with wing forward Sarah Houlihan scoring four points over the 60 minutes. That win in Castletownroche was Kerry’s second win over Cork this summer having already beaten them in the group stages of the Munster championship.
As for Mayo, they have had a steady year so far reaching the division one league final, where they were beaten by Cork and were then surprisingly overturned by Galway in their own provincial decider. But Mayo turned on the style in their qualifier against Westmeath running out 5-11 to 0-11 with Cora Staunton once again the star of the show bagging herself 4-8, with Lisa Cafferkey scoring the other goal, while Sarah Rowe, Aileen Gilroy, and Deirdre Doherty all chipped in with a point each.
Mayo had that game in the bag inside the first two minutes after Staunton and Cafferkey had found the net. Mayo will not get anything that easy on Saturday against the Kingdom, but manager Peter Clarke has built a solid side based around a good foundation of experience mixed with plenty of youth. Goalkeeper Yvonne Byrne as been there and done it all before and put in a player of the game performance in the league final against Cork, where she pulled off a number of top drawer saves. In from her Noelle Tiereney at full back is a safe pair of hands, but will need to be on top of her game against the dangerous Cork full forward line. The half back line of Deirdre Doherty, Kathryn Sullivan, and Sarah Tierney offers plenty of pace and a good attacking base on top of their defensive duties. Claire Egan was the senior partner of the midfield last time out alongside Clodagh McManamon. Egan’s role will be key to Mayo getting to grips with Kerry in this sector. The Mayo half-foward line has bags of quality and experience and will have given the Kingdom’s management team plenty to talk about. Martha Carter, Cora Staunton, and Fiona McHale have been among the top players in the game now for a long time and will be ready for the challenge. Aileen Gilroy spearheaded the full forward line last time out, and with Lisa Cafferkey and Sarah Rowe either side of her, they will give the Kerry full back line plenty to think about.
Mayo will be confident of bringing home the win on Saturday against a side who turned the league tables on their heads by coming out of division two this year to beat the division one league winners.