Ladies look to book final spot

Running for victory: Fiona McHale  in action against Emma Sherwood from Kerry in last year's championship meeting between the sides. Photo: Sportsfile.

Running for victory: Fiona McHale in action against Emma Sherwood from Kerry in last year's championship meeting between the sides. Photo: Sportsfile.

Tomorrow afternoon in Birr, Frank Browne's Mayo Ladies' side will be putting their 100 per cent league record on the line when they take on Kerry in the National League semi-final with a spot in the final up for grabs. It has been a seriously impressive league season so far for this side who have swept all before them in the group stages, picking up seven wins from seven games to top the division, finishing nine points in front of the four sides below them in the table who all finished on 12 points. That led to its own confusion and controversy with Armagh initially being told that they had made it into the last four only for it to emerge that it was Mayo's opponents Kerry who had qualified for the play-off spot.

But none of that is Mayo's issue. They have been simply outstanding all year long racking up an impressive haul of 15-74 in their seven games to see off the best the rest of the country has to offer. When Mayo and Kerry squared up in round five of the league back at the start of March, Browne's ladies came home with a hard earned two point win from Fitzgerald Stadium on a score of 2-8 to 2-6, while Cora Staunton finished the day with six points to her name, Aileen Gilroy netted a brace of goals for the team in that win. Staunton is of course still the stand out player in this side, but the scoring burden has been taken away from her a bit this year with Gilroy and Sarah Rowe for example chipping in with big scores over the league run that saw Mayo keep moving in the right direction.

In their last group outing it was Rowe, who has become a vocal campaigner for better treatment and facilities for ladies' teams in recent months, who lit up the scoring charts hitting two goals, that saw Mayo edge home in a tight battle against the Farney girls by five points in Ballina. Mayo had led that game by six points at the break, but Monaghan fought back into a two point lead before Rowe hit the first of her goals to edge Mayo back in front and her second major sealed the win.

While there were nine points between these sides in the standings at the end of the group stages, this will be a very tough test for Mayo against a team who knocked them out of the championship in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick last summer. Browne will be looking for big performances from the aforementioned trio of Staunton, Rowe, and Gilroy, while Yvonne Byrne will need to be in top form marshalling the defence in front of her where Martha Carter and Sara Tierney will need to be touch tight, and Fiona McHale's midfield prowess will be looked to, to keep everything ticking over.

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