It will be six weeks since Mayo last took to the field in competitive action in the Connacht final against Galway this weekend. The long lay off is nothing new for this bunch of ladies, who had a similar layoff after their league final defeat to Cork before their championship opener against the Tribeswomen. Going into both of those games Mayo were the underdogs, but on Saturday afternoon they are warm favourites to book their place in the last four of the All Ireland series against beaten Leinster finalists Westmeath.
The Lakesiders booked their place in the last eight a fortnight ago with a comprehensive 3-20 to 1-4 win over neighbours Meath. In a really impressive performance they led the Royal county 3-11 to to 0-0 at the turnaround thanks to a brace of goals from Leona Archibald and another from Lucy McCartan. Westmeath had previously beaten Meath and Laois on their way to the provincial final, but they ended up on the wrong side of a 26 point gap at the end of the game. The midlanders who were operating out of division two in the league this year, contested that final before they went down 3-17 to 0-13 in the final in Parnell Park in May on the same evening that Mayo lost to Cork in the division one decider.
Mayo ended their five year famine in Connacht back in July with a comprehensive win over Galway in the final, that game was marked out by two stand out performances, one from Cora Staunton who scored 2-14 of their 3-20 that day and the other from Martha Carter who broke a bone in her hand early in the game, but played through the pain to get Mayo over the line. The never say die attitude is something that manager Frank Browne has instilled in this side since he took over for the second time, last season, and now they are on the brink of getting back to the final four in the country for the first time in a long number of years.
Two years ago the sides met in a qualifer game that saw Mayo just edge home thanks to an injury time Staunton free on a score of 3-8 to 1-13, Mayo were ultimately beaten in the next round by Cork, but over the two seasons that have followed Mayo have moved themselves back up to another level. While Staunton, Carter, Yvonne Byrne and Fiona McHale are all well experienced heads at the highest level, there is much more to this Mayo team than a glittering list of star names.
The defence backboned by Carter and team captain Sarah Tierney are a well drilled unit with Leona Ryder, Nicola O'Malley, Marie Corbett, and Orla Conlon all hard working top class players. With McHale and Staunton leading the attack there are a number of other exceptional supporting cast members like Carol Hegarty, Sarah Rowe, Niamh Kelly, Aileen Gilroy, and Doireann Hughes who are able to exert their own influence on the scoreboard. Others like Grace Kelly, Danielle Caldwell, Ciara McManamon, Shauna Howley, and the vastly experienced Claire Egan also offer Mayo a great injection of quality from the bench to boot.
A place in the semifinal against either Dublin or Donegal, who caused a surprise two weeks ago beating Galway in their qualifier match is up for grabs. The game throws in at 3.15pm in Pearse Park in Longford.