Mayo got their LGFA Senior Championship campaign underway in positive fashion this afternoon at Markievicz Park. They were always too strong for Cavan in this opening round fixture in Group 1 of the Championship, winning fairly comfortably on a scoreline of 1-18 to 0-15.
Key to the win was an excellent first half goal bagged by Rachel Kearns but, as their final tally suggests, there was a large element of teamwork to the victory, with the scores spread widely. In all, eight Mayo players got their names on the scoresheet today, with the excellent Shauna Howley leading the way on seven points, four of them from open play.
Cavan posted the day’s first two scores this afternoon, both from frees. For the next ten minutes, though, it was all Mayo, with a succession of attacks leading to five points without reply.
A Shauna Howley free, following a foul on Rachel Kearns, got us going. Shauna then bagged her second, a real boomer of a score from well out.
Grace Kelly got our next one, swivelling rapidly and firing over from out on the left. Shauna again, with the Westerners on an advantage, shot over to put us two clear.
Already it was noticeable how we were attacking them at pace, moving the ball primarily through the hand and finding gaps in the Cavan rearguard. We were able to shoot from distance too, with a move over and back ending with the ball played to Sinead Cafferkey who was positioned dead-centre but a good way out. She let fly from there and over it went.
Cavan responded with a point, their first from play, as we took a two-point lead into the first water break. We widened that gap back to three on the resumption, with Rachel Kearns winning possession and feeding it back to Tara Needham whose snap shot yielded a point. Rachel, under heavy pressure, finished the next one herself.
The Breffni County had a goal chance then, when an effort at a point came back off the upright. Aisling Sheridan claimed it but the Mayo rearguard did well to protect their goal-line. Sheridan did bag a point but there was no way through for her for a major.
Down at the other end, though, we found the net. Rachel claimed a long ball in and a burst of pace enabled her to break clear of the cover. Her shot was an angled one taken on the run and the ‘keeper appeared to be unsighted as the ball, hit low and hard, flew past her and into the corner of the net.
We then traded points before the half-time whistle. Niamh Keneghan got their one from play and Grace Kelly, fed by the irrepressible Rachel Kearns, got ours as we took a seven-point lead into the break.
From then to the finish, we kept them at arm’s length, trading scores more or less all the way to the end. Cavan reduced that margin to six at the final whistle but, in truth, we could and should have enjoyed a bigger win, as we missed a few good goal chances early in the second half.
The first of these happened when, following a great upfield burst by Kathryn Sullivan, Shauna Howley found herself in on goal. She pulled the trigger but her shot hit the side netting.
Sinead Cafferkey landed another fine score from distance before our second clear goal chance materialised. Tara Needham was played in via a delicious, long pass from sister Ciara and her shot beat the ‘keeper but the leather rebounded off the butt of the post.
By now, Sarah Rowe was on the field, the Kilmoremoy player making her first start of the year following an injury lay-off, and she combined with her fellow substitute Ciara Whyte, with her clubmate firing over to push our lead back out to seven.
The sides continued to trade scores, with two points from Shauna (one a free) replied to in kind by them. At the second water break we led by seven once more.
We closed out the win with calm efficiency in the final quarter. Cavan really needed a goal to have any hope of getting a result and that never looked like happening. We were content to let them have the odd point, more than once after a foul conceded before a Cavan move had developed into an opening on goal for them, and we added a few points ourselves before the finish.
When the final whistle was sounded Michael Moyles’ charges were six to the good, victors on a scoreline of 1-18 to 0-15. A calm and assured six-point win it was too.
So, the county’s LGFA Championship campaign is off and running. Next up for them is a Group 1 clash with Monaghan this day week.
Mayo: Aisling Tarpey; Saoirse Lally, Clodagh McManamon, Ella Brennan; Tamara O’Connor, Éilis Ronayne, Kathryn Sullivan; Ciara Needham, Sinead Cafferkey (0-2); Fiona Doherty (0-1), Rachel Kearns (1-2), Mary McHale; Grace Kelly (0-2), Shauna Howley (0-7, three frees), Tara Needham (0-1). Subs: Sarah Rowe (0-2) for McHale, Ciara Whyte (0-1) for Doherty, Lisa Cafferkey for Tara Needham , Saoirse Walsh for McManamon, Orla Conlon for Ciara Needham.