It’s a truly glorious morning weather-wise up here in the capital and for Mayo’s women footballers a glorious opportunity awaits at Croke Park this afternoon. Their LGFA All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Kerry throws in at 2pm with the winners playing either defending champions Meath or Donegal in the decider in a fortnight’s time.
Expectations for this Mayo team weren’t all that high even just a few months back. A decent League campaign was followed by defeat to Galway in the Connacht final and the immediate aim after that would have been to get out of the group, which they did, finishing second to Dublin who beat them in the final group match.
But Dublin are now out, as are Galway, and Mayo’s stirring win over Cork at the quarter-final stage last weekend has opened up a route to the final in a competition that now seems to have been blown right open. Kerry – Division 2 League winners this year but, like Meath last year, a team that are improving rapidly – now bar the way to the final for us and the Kingdom are narrow favourites to win today.
What was so eye-catching about our win over Cork last weekend was the huge workrate the team put in from first to last. We pressed high on their restarts, fought like demons for every loose ball and took the game to them at every opportunity. As the saying goes, fortune favours the brave and we certainly showed bravery in spades the last day in Ennis.
We’ll need to do the same and more at HQ today. It’s already warming up here – and it’s not ten in the morning – so it’s sure to be hot, perhaps extremely so, this afternoon. That’ll make it difficult for both teams and so adapting to the conditions will be an important factor in how this one goes.
The fact that Kerry are the very slightest of favourites this afternoon isn’t going to bother Michael Moyles and his young charges. As Saoirse Lally said to Mike on the podcast this week – a really great listen if you haven’t got to it yet – a key difference in recent games is that we’ve sought to impose our game on other teams and it’s certainly an approach we’ve profited from.
Meath’s example last year undoubtedly appears to have inspired ourselves, Kerry and Donegal this year. As Meath’s Emma Duggan noted earlier this week, ‘the hunter has now become the hunted’ with last year’s upstarts now firmly installed as the new establishment team this summer.
But while the Royals are the undoubted favourites to claim back-to-back Brendan Martin Cup successes, they’ll know that the other three still in the Championship will really fancy their chances to knock them off their perch.
Today, though, Meath are only of interest to their semi-final opponents Donegal. Our sole focus is on Kerry and it’s only if we get past them that we can then focus on the final.
Semi-finals are for winning. This hugely likeable and big-hearted Mayo will, for sure, give everything in pursuit of victory today and I’m really looking forward to being there at Croke Park to see them in action this afternoon.
A place in the final is there to be grabbed. Let’s go grab it. Up Mayo.