Unlike their male counterparts in recent times, the Mayo LGFA footballers have reached the top of the mountain. They were the last All-Ireland winners of the 20th Century and the first winners of the 21st Century. They followed that brace of titles with another pair in 2002 and 2003.
They boast some all-time greats in their ranks, but who are the best fifteen Mayo ladies of this golden era? We asked those who know best – current Mayo and Collingwood Star Sarah Rowe, three-time All-Star Denise Horan and the man who was behind all those title wins at the turn of the Millennium, Finbar Egan.
Goalkeeper: “The best ‘keeper I’ve ever seen is on this call with us” said Finbar of Denise Horan. The Tourmakeady net-minder was central to Mayo’s success and despite her modesty in saying she shouldn’t be on the team, she was over-ruled by Sarah and Finbar to take her place at number 1.
Honourable Mention: Amy Connolly.
Full-Back Line: The full-back line was rich with All-Stars. Garrymore native and former Mayo captain Sarah Tierney was the first name in the full-back line, she was joined by The Neale’s Helena Lohan, the three-time All-Star who led from the defence, with very few able to deal with her power and strength. At number 4 was Tourmakeady defender Nuala O’Shea. Her most memorable performance came in 1999 where she kept the great Áine Wall scoreless in the All-Ireland final.
Honourable Mentions: Bernie O’Neill (The Neale), Niamh Lally (Carnacon), Edel Reilly (Hollymount).
Half-Back Line: It proved difficult for our selectors to whittle it down to just three names in the half-back line. One name they could all agree on, however, was Marcella Heffernan – blessed with versatility, the Hollymount native excelled at half-back. Anchoring the defence was her clubmate Yvonne Byrne. Having also played in goals for Mayo, she was “at her best at centre back” according to Denise Horan. Completing the half-back line was Claire O’Hara, the 2007 All-Star’s fitness and athleticism got her the nod ahead of the rest.
Honourable Mentions: Sharon McGing (Carnacon), Kathryn Sullivan (Castlebar Mitchels), Orla Casby (Hollymount).
Midfield: Our selectors opted to choose two midfielders that would complement each others talents. The tenacity of Claire Egan was essential to Mayo’s success, the Carnacon footballer also picked up an impressive haul of three All-Stars. She was partnered by the athletic Aileen Gilroy. The Killala native picked up an All-Star in 2017 before securing a move to the AFLW last year to play with Melbourne.
Honourable Mentions: Sinead Cafferky (Kilmovee Shamrocks), Edel Biggins (Shrule/ Glencorrib), Rita Kearney (Clonbur, Galway).
Half Forward Line: Fiona McHale was selected at right half-forward, the Carnacon footballer again could have featured in several positions such was her versatility but she was most prominent at wing forward. On the ’40’ was Christina Heffernan, the Hollymount playmaker has a collection of six All-Stars over the course of her illustrious career. Moy Davitts’ flyer Niamh Kelly was chosen on the left wing, the ex-Mayo captain’s ability earned her a ticket to the AFLW to play with the West Coast Eagles.
Honourable Mentions: Michelle McGing (Carnacon), Sinead Costello, Ciara McDermott (Moy Davitts).
Full-Forward Line: At number 13 was Diane O’Hora – another player who could have featured anywhere on the field, the Ballina footballer was at her most dangerous on the inside. Unsurprisingly, eleven-times All-Star Cora Staunton was selected at full-forward. The Carnacon star is arguably the greatest ladies footballer of all time. Completing our team was somebody who was also present on the call – no, not Finbar Egan! – but Kilmoremoy’s Sarah Rowe. One of the best in the country of the current generation, she is another to be poached by AFLW club Collingwood such is her ability. Sarah was named their ‘Best First Year Player’ in her rookie season.
Honourable Mentions: Sabrina Bailey (Shrule/Glencorrib), Rachel Kearns (Deel Rovers), Grace Kelly (Moy Davitts).
So, that was the team the panel chose, in their view the best Mayo LGFA XV since 2000. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
The Best Mayo LGFA XV 2000 – 2020 was an initiative put together by ClubSpot, the club management software company whose online platform and associated mobile phone app brings club membership onto the palm of your hand. This article, by ClubSpot’s Podge Gill, also appears on the ClubSpot website – here.