In October 2007 he stood on the field in Croke Park after his Mayo ladies’ side had just lost to Cork in the All Ireland final, taking in what went wrong. After guiding Mayo that close to the summit, Frank Browne would have been planning to have another crack at the title the next year, but that was not how things worked out as Mayo entered a number of years of flux with half a dozen managers taking charge over a short number of years. But Browne has come back on board as manager this year after a number of years in the club game, and more recently in charge of the Longford senior hurlers for the last three years where he won a National Hurling League division 3B title and the Lory Meagher Cup last year.
“I was always itching to get back, since 2007 it was something I was thinking about. I kind of felt I had unfinished business since then after all the messing that went on around 2008. We had thought that we were in a great position and it then went pear shaped and bust. It was an itch that I wanted to scratch and it was something that I always wanted to do. I’m back but it’s a changed landscape, but there are still some of the senior players like Cora Staunton, Claire Egan, Fiona McHale, Yvonne Byrne there, but there’s also an exciting crop of younger players coming through,” he told the Mayo Advertiser this week.
Browne and his team have hit the ground running since just after Christmas. “We had our first team meeting on the Sunday after Christmas in Breaffy and we kind of started from there and then moved on to fitness testing and we’re back a month now,” he explained. This was the first year of the new Connacht Winter League in the ladies’ game, which gave sides a chance to warm up before the start of the league proper, and the Wexford native thinks it has been a very useful exercise for him and his team. “I thought the Connacht Winter League was a great idea, I know a few teams didn’t participate, but it was a great chance for me to have a look at players in a fairly competitive environment. Otherwise you’d have been rooting around on the chicken and chips circuit looking for challenges, and you’re not going to get a lot of teams in the top division we’re in looking to play you before the league. We got three games out of it and it allowed some of the older players to ease themselves back in and got the younger players to step up to the mark. We’re working on our strength and conditioning, but Sunday is going to be a real test.”
Back with a bang
The last time that Browne managed the Mayo ladies was against Cork in the All Ireland final, and on Sunday in the Swinford Amenity Park at 2pm they will face the same opposition in his first game back on the national scene with the county. “It’s back with a bang, right in at the deep end. But that’s what it’s all about. No matter what level you’re playing at you want to test yourself against the best at your level, and that’s what they will do on Sunday. In some way I look back to 2007 and the first game we had against Armagh in Cavan and we got beaten back to Longford that day. I remember thinking what have I got myself into, but at the same time I saw something in them and I thought Yeah there’s something here,” he said.
Browne does have almost a full deck to pick from, he explained, and they are looking forward to the challenge. “All of the players from last year are pretty much back, bar Claire Egan who is out with a serious injury and it’s all about getting her rehabbing. Sunday’s going to be tough, there’s no doubt about that. But I was doing a piece with another journalist during the week and they asked me who is going to win the league, and it’s a kind of stupid question to ask me, because naturally we’re setting out our stall to go and win the league. You don’t go into any competition and say we’re going to come second in this.”
Mayo face Cork in the first round of the Ladies Gaelic Football National League division one at 2pm in Swinford Amenity Park on Sunday.