The Mayo ladies are once again through to the All-Ireland semi-final. They triumphed by the minimum margin in dramatic fashion over Galway in today’s LGFA All-Ireland quarter-final, with Shauna Howley fisting over the winning score into the wind at Pearse Stadium just seconds before the final hooter sounded, as Mayo snatched the win by 0-10 to 1-6.
It was no more than they deserved. Galway had the wind at their backs for the second half and, while they pressed hard, they never used the conditions in the way they probably should have done, sticking instead to the handpassing approach they’d used in the first half.
They missed a few shots at the posts too and this, coupled with our greater efficiency with the few chances we had, kept us in it coming down the closing stretch. We still had to win it, though, and this we did, thanks to a lung-bursting upfield charge by Ciara Needham who, when fouled, offloaded to Shauna Howley who applied the finish.
Ahead of throw-in, the two teams, attired in white t-shirts emblazoned with the protest message that all the LGFA and camogie teams are currently pushing in their rightful campaign for equality, lined up together for the National Anthem. Both teams then left the field before, after a fair few impatient toots from the referee’s whistle, they returned to loud applause from the decent-sized attendance.
We made one change ahead of throw-in, with Rachel Kearns starting in place of Maria Cannon. We had the wind in the opening half and we bagged the game’s first two scores. Deirdre Doherty got the opener from a free before Sinéad Cafferky, from some distance out, hoisted the ball into the wind and it sailed over the bar.
This early good work was, though, undone in a flash when a necklace of neat handpasses saw Galway breach our backline, with Lynsey Noone pivoting onto her left foot to apply the finish to the net.
Aoife Geraghty, already prominent for us at midfield in what was a barnstorming display from her, was fouled on a forward burst and that gave Deirdre Doherty the chance to level it up. The Charlestown player made no mistake from the placed ball.
Ciara Needham pulled us level a bit later, after Galway had scored from a free. We then exchanged points from frees, Deirdre Doherty again getting the one for us.
As the half-time hooter approached, Galway pressed forward but we broke out and Tara Needham nailed a super score from distance to send us in a point in front.
Shauna Howley replaced Deirdre Doherty for the second half but what was immediately noticeable on the resumption was that Galway were sticking with the same running game, eschewing the opportunities the wind gave them for a more expansive approach.
They also suffered an early setback when goalscorer Noone was sin-binned for dragging down the rampaging Aoife Geraghty. Galway got the next score, though, from a free but soon after we had the ball in the net when Shauna Howley’s free dropped into the square and Aoife Geraghty bundled it home. The score was, however, chalked off as a square ball.
From the restart, we put on a tight press and Galway, unable to break out, got pinged for overcarrying. Shauna popped over the resultant free. They got the next two scores, though, one from play and it looked then as if the momentum was swinging in the home team’s favour.
But we stuck in there. Rachel Kearns burst forward and, when she was upended, Shauna once more guided the leather between the posts to haul us level. We dropped back as Galway probed for an opening and a ball in over the back enabled them to get close to our posts, with Aoife Molloy punching over to edge them one ahead again.
Our equaliser after that came from Maria Cannon, who’d replaced Sarah Mulvihil a bit earlier on. This was no gimme, both because of the distance from the posts and the howling wind, but the Burrishoole player rammed it over.
With time running out, there was now a clear sense that the next score would win it. We were pushing up aggressively on them but they had their chances too and they spurned a great one, screwing a free wide.
With just seconds left, Galway had the ball and were advancing up the field. Then a misplaced pass was intercepted by Ciara Needham but the Louisburgh player was a good seventy yards from the opposition goal at that stage. As she explained later to us on the podcast, all she could see was clear green space in front of her and off she went at speed into this opening.
Before she got within range she was fouled but Shauna Howley was riding shotgun with her and Ciara was able to release the ball to her team-mate. Shauna’s fisted effort into the wind just had the legs and, with no more than twenty seconds left ’till the hooter, we were out the gap in the most dramatic of circumstances.
So the women are, for the third year in a row, back in the All-Ireland semi-final, a match that’ll take place the weekend after next at Semple Stadium, Thurles, where they’ll be up against Kerry, who dethroned back-to-back champions Meath this evening. This big-hearted Mayo side are a team all football supporters within the county should now get behind in numbers, as their hunt for All-Ireland glory gathers pace.
Mayo: Laura Brennan; Éilís Ronayne; Clodagh McManamon, Saoirse Lally; Danielle Caldwell, Ciara Needham (0-1), Kathryn Sullivan; Aoife Geraghty, Fiona McHale; Rachel Kearns, Sinéad Cafferky (0-1), Sarah Mulvihil; Tara Needham (0-1), Deirdre Doherty (0-3, frees), Sinéad Walsh. Subs: Shauna Howley (0-3, two frees) for Doherty, Maria Cannon (0-1, free) for Mulvihil, Lucy Wallace for Sullivan, Lisa Cafferky for McHale.
We’ve got loads of voices on our Final Whistle podcast recorded straight after the game at Pearse Stadium. Kathryn Sullivan, Ciara Needham, Rachel Kearns, Sinéad Cafferky and Shauna Howley, as well as Michael Moyles and Nóirín Moran all feature on it. The pod is up on Patreon here.