Mayo’s inter-county year came to an end at Semple Stadium in Thurles this evening, as the county lost out to Kerry in an entertaining LGFA All-Ireland semi-final. Kerry had five points to spare at the finish, as they ran out winners by 1-16 to 1-11.
Mayo trailed by nine points at half-time, having played into a Salthill-like stiff breeze and having had to cope with a full-force gale from a direct and very productive Kerry attack. From our perspective all the damage was done in that opening half, indeed the worst of it occurred in a devastating five-minute spell when they hit us for 1-7 without reply to race into a double-digit lead.
Their star turn, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, was central to the damage being wreaked on us. She palmed the ball to the net to push Kerry into a lead that was too big for us to claw back in the second half. The Corca Dhuibhne player got superb service from her supporting cast but her finishing was top class, as she posted an astonishing personal tally of 1-11.
We’d enjoyed a solid opening ten minutes before that barrage. Kerry sank back into defence early on but our probing was perhaps a bit too cautious and a long period of lateral passing ended up with Kerry turning us over and scoring at their first attempt.
Sinéad Cafferky, a lively, jinking presence in attack in the first half, bagged our first score and she provided the assist for Shauna Howley fisted point which levelled it up on twelve minutes.
It was Sinéad who got our third point too but by then Kerry were all but out the gap, with their tally having been hoisted to 1-9. In that dizzying spell they shot on sight and point after point flew over Laura Brennan’s crossbar. There was no respite for us during that spell and but for a great save by Laura the mountain we’d have had to climb in the second half would have been even higher.
We started the second half in a positive fashion, with a score from Rachel Kearns. We swapped two points with them then, substitute Sineád Walsh and Sinéad Cafferky notching ours.
Another substitute, Deirdre Doherty, was less than a minute on the field when she crashed the ball low and hard to the net to ignite our comeback. Aoife Geraghty had claimed primary possession and drove forward before offloading to the Charlestown player for what was a real morale-boosting score.
Now we were the ones putting on the high press and all over the field we hunted hard for the ball. And when we got it, we drove hard at them, Danielle Caldwell making a number of eye-catching forward bursts.
After they’d scored from a free, two frees for us by Shauna Howley cut the gap to four with ten minutes to go. Shouts of Mayo-Oh! May-Oh! now rang out around the ground.
But it was too late. Kerry were able to nick a point here, another point there and the gap was back to six with the hooter’s sound approaching. We got two close-in frees and Deirdre Doherty twice went for goal but nothing resulted from either effort.
We got the game’s final score, from Ciara Needham, but Kerry had done enough to claim victory by five points and, with it, a place in the All-Ireland final.
So, it’s the end of the road for this year for the Mayo women. It has, though, been a year of progress for them, as they emerged from a tough Division One League campaign to claim an overdue Connacht title and then, for good measure, beat Galway a second time in the quarter-final.
Today’s match will, no doubt, prove valuable as a learning exercise, showing as it does where the bar is in terms of competing at the top level. We’re not quite there yet but we’re not that far off either and the team can have high hopes about their trajectory after an encouraging year for them.
Commiserations to them on today’s defeat and here’s to further progress for them in 2024.
Hard luck too to the Mayo camogie team, who lost out to Wicklow in today’s Nancy Murray Cup final.
Mayo: Laura Brennan; Saoirse Lally, Clodagh McManamon, Danielle Caldwell; Éilís Ronayne, Ciara Needham (0-2), Kathryn Sullivan; Aoife Geraghty (0-1), Tamara O’Connor; Sinéad Cafferky (0-2), Rachel Kearns (0-1), Sarah Mulvihil; Tara Needham, Shauna Howley (0-3, two frees), Lisa Cafferky (0-1). Subs: Sinéad Walsh (0-1) for Mulvihil, Deirdre Doherty (1-0) for Kearns, Lucy Wallace for O’Connor, Maria Cannon for Tara Needham, Fiona McHale for Howley.
Our Mayo Football Podcast Final Whistle show recorded at Semple Stadium is now up on Patreon. Rob and I are joined on it by Nóirín Moran and Sinéad Stagg, as we hear post-match reflections from manager Michael Moyles and from Austin O’Malley, as well as team captain Kathryn Sullivan and goalscorer Deirdre Doherty. The pod is available on Patreon – here.