Moved at the last minute from Ballina to Bekan, this afternoon’s opening round match in this year’s LGFA National Football League produced a very Dome-like score. Meath came out on top at the finish, getting the better of an extremely youthful Mayo team by 2-18 to 1-15.
This was a match I was hoping to get to myself but I simply couldn’t justify driving across the country today, with Storm Isha deepening all day ahead of the Red weather warnings kicking in at five. Would I have made the trip had I known this morning that the match would be on at the Dome? Maybe, but, then again, maybe not.
We made two changes ahead of throw-in to the team named in advance, handing Senior debuts to two more players in the process. Westport’s Nicola O’Malley started instead of Emily Reape at corner back while Alana Fitzpatrick of Claremorris – who was so impressive in that All-Ireland Junior club final before Christmas – started for Sinéad Walsh. The MacHale Rovers player was on the podcast during the week, where it was mentioned that she was nursing a knock, and this was most likely a factor in her absence from the starting team today.
We opened the scoring, from a Maria Cannon free. The Burrishoole player proved an accurate freetaker for us today and it was reported on the Midwest commentary that regular freetaker last year, Shauna Howley, has opted out of the panel this year. It was also mentioned that another experienced player, Deirdre Doherty, won’t be involved in 2024 either. They’re big losses, both of them.
Early on it was a case of Maria Cannon trading scores with Meath’s highly impressive Emma Duggan. At the finish, both of them ended up with eleven points to their credit, though the Meath player bagged six of her’s from open play, in a display for which she earned the Player of the Match award on Midwest from Sinéad Stagg.
We made the first major breakthrough, with a goal that sounded like there was a large element of a deflection involved. Meath LGFA credited it to Tara Needham, Mayo LGFA to Maria Cannon and Midwest reckoned it could have been an own goal. Whoever got it, it put us three up. (I’ve credited Maria Cannon for it below).
The lead was, though, short-lived. Meath hit us with 1-4 without reply, the goal the first of two bagged before the short whistle by Meadhbh Byrne. Her second major left five points between the sides at half-time.
Maria Cannon bagged the first two scores after the break, the first from a free and the second from play. But back came the Royals and they added on five further points before we added another score, inevitably from the boot of Maria Cannon once again.
Meath kept us at arm’s length from then till the finish, at which time they had six points to spare. In the second half we gave game time to Annie Gough, Emily Reape, Emma Needham, Sinéad Walsh and Caitlin Henry.
While this wasn’t the result Liam McHale would have been hoping for, his young charges will surely have learned a huge amount from the experience. They’ll be looking to take these learnings into next weekend’s Round 2 meeting away to Galway.
Mayo: Lisa Reid; Lucy Wallace, Saoirse Lally, Nicola O’Malley; Kathryn Sullivan, Danielle Caldwell, Jenna Mortimer; Aoife Geraghty, Hannah Reape; Fionnuala McLaughlin, Lisa Cafferky, Maria Cannon (1-11, ten frees); Tara Needham (0-1), Fiona McHale (0-1), Alana Fitzpatrick (0-1). Subs: Annie Gough for Hannah Reape, Emily Reape for Kathryn Sullivan, Emma Needham for Fiona McHale, Sinéad Walsh (0-1) for Tara Needham, Caitlin Henry for Lisa Cafferky.