Six weeks have passed since Mayo were triumphant in the Connacht Final against Galway. They were underdogs in that game, and every game before that but as this year has proved with Connacht and Leicester, the underdog is alive and kicking.
Staunton’s big scoreline of 2-14 against Galway was nothing out of the ordinary for the Carnacon woman, but it was backed up by a superb team performance from every girl in green and red on the pitch that day. A team that has gelled immensely in the last year featuring a mixture of experienced, All-Ireland winning veterans and talented up and coming youngsters, this season seems very bright. Later on today they march onto Pearse Park in Longford where they will go toe-to-toe with Westmeath where throw-in is set for 3.15pm.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to see the Ladies raise the Brendan Martin Cup on several occasions. In the early Noughties it was just the norm. They were consistent, talented and all-round superstars. However, thirteen years is a long time, especially when one is used to constant success. Last year, suffering a devastating one-point defeat to Galway in the dying seconds must have been a bitter pill to swallow but also may have been a catalyst in this year’s brilliant run.
They had a massive League run, going unbeaten right up until the final where they were just pipped to the cup by Cork. The Galway game was just Mayo playing in a league of their own, a feeling which reeled in the glory years again.
Martha Carter, as you all know by now, made big headlines for playing the majority of the game with a broken bone in her hand! I’m from the same parish as Martha but she must be on a different water scheme to me. Moreover, I believe that if the same had happened to any of the other fourteen players, they probably would have done the same. They just seem to have their eyes fixed on the win with no side vision whatsoever, whether it be a broken bone or any injury.
Franke Browne has made it clear that his is main aim following the Connacht Final was to go the distance and bury the 13-year burden. The last competitive meeting between Mayo and Westmeath was two years ago but they have met since in what he has described as ‘close’ challenge matches.
Westmeath will be no pushovers, they too found themselves in a League final this year. Furthermore, they reached their second Leinster final in two years and despite being convincingly beaten by Dublin, they made their way to the quarters with a resounding win against neighbours Meath.
Mayo will be up against it today but their underdog status has been ripped from them and rightly so. They have proved that they are a strong outfit and between confidence, talent and experience, they have more than enough to overthrow Westmeath.
However, after Donegal’s shock win against Galway in the qualifiers, nothing is ever written in stone. Many people in the build-up to this game have focused on the six-week gap between Mayo’s last and next game. I wouldn’t believe this will be much concern to a team that has one target and one target only. Six weeks is a long time, thirteen years is a lot longer.