Mayo got their LGFA National League campaign off to the best possible start tonight. They seized the lead against Westmeath in the Dome right from the throw-in and proceeded to dominate proceedings from then to the finish, powering to an utterly lopsided 7-22 to 1-12 win.
We had the ball in the net within seconds of the start. Maria Reilly’s shot for a point was a bit undercooked but it flew past the Westmeath ‘keeper and into the net. It was tough on the goalie, whose debut it was tonight and the game didn’t get any better for her as we got another first half goal in similar fashion a bit later.
The visitors responded impressively, though, from that opening blow. They scored a point from play and then followed this up with a goal from a penalty to edge ahead, adding a second point from a free soon after.
Captain Shauna Howley settled us with a free and the same player then bagged her first from play to level it up. Scores were coming rapidly now, with Lisa Cafferky letting fly from out on the right, a score soon cancelled out by one for the Lake County.
Already, the insane pace that we’ve seen from other matches in the Dome was evident. The ball was being moved quickly from end to end and there was no let-up to the action. I was under pressure myself and this was only from the couch at home, doing score updates for the Discord chat.
After that Westmeath leveller, we then moved to take control of the contest. A Shauna Howley free put us back in front – and there we’d stay this time – before Ciara Whyte, taking a superb pass from impressive full-back debutant Sherin El Mazzry, knocked over a fine score.
Sarah Mulvihill then got her name on the scoresheet and soon after we had the ball in the net for a second time. Once again it was Maria Reilly, in a move created by a powerful run by Fiona McHale, with Ciara Whyte popping it up for Maria who tumbled to the ground but kept the ball, got up and lashed it to the net.
We took that six-point lead into the water break. From there to half-time we accelerated away from them, hitting them with two further goals and five points, a fusillade to which they had no meaningful reply. Losing their centre-back to the sin bin didn’t help but it was our incisive passes and well thought-out inter-play that opened the door for most of these scores.
Shauna Howley got our third goal, the chance opened up by a fine fisted pass from Lisa Cafferky. Our fourth was, though, the second one that the unfortunate Westmeath ‘keeper messed up, when Sinead Cafferky rounded off a mazy run with a shot that should have been claimed on the line but which instead ended up in the net.
Fifteen points clear at the break, this match was already well over as a contest. What was commendable from our point of view – and, tough, bordering on brutal from theirs – was how we kept pummelling them over the course of an increasingly one-sided second half.
It was even more impressive that this happened as we made a veritable slew of second half substitutions. I’m not sure how many personnel changes are allowed in these games but we must have brought on at least half a dozen, maybe more, and the turnover made no discernible difference to our play.
Indeed, three of the replacements – Laura Moran, Sinead Walsh and Ava Keane – fairly put their hands up, all three of them bagging goals. The one scored by Sinead Walsh was the pick of the bunch for the night, a score created by a long, raking pass, gathered swiftly and passed at speed and when Sinead got it she knew exactly where to stick it. It was a glorious move, capped by a fine finish.
The stream froze for a bit in the second half but there was no element of drama about the contest then. By now we were ambling to victory and when it came the chasm between the teams was one that stretched to 28 points.
For Westmeath, this was obviously a humbling introduction to top-tier football. Several things didn’t go their way tonight and in the rather unique environment of the Dome the game went away from them completely. They’ll have far better days than this in 2022.
From our perspective, though, this was a hugely encouraging start to the year. This is a new-look Mayo team, with several places up for grabs and a number of players showed tonight that they’re well capable of pushing hard for a place on the first fifteen come summer.
Michael Moyles and his backroom team will obviously be hugely pleased with this performance. With matches to come against well-established Division One teams in the form of Galway and Donegal, though, he’ll know that tougher challenges lie ahead. This display couldn’t, however, be faulted and Mayo will now head to Tuam next weekend in high spirits to lock horns with the neighbours – who lost out by three tonight against Donegal – in Round 2.
Mayo: Ashling Tarpey; Éilis Ronayne, Sherin El Mazzry, Saoirse Lally; Tamara O’Connor (0-1), Fiona McHale, Nicola Hession; Sinéad Cafferky (1-1), Aoife Geraghty; Sarah Mulvihill (0-3), Lisa Cafferky (0-2), Shauna Howley (1-5, four frees); Rachel Baynes, Ciara Whyte (0-2), Maria Reilly (2-1). Subs: Sinéad Walsh (1-3) for Mulvihill, Diane Caldwell for Lally, Ciara Needham for O’Connor, Laura Moran (1-1) for Lisa Cafferky, Tara Needham (0-1) for Reilly, Roisín Flynn for Geraghty, Ava Keane (1-1) for Whyte, Grainne Flynn for Howley, Hannah Reape for Baynes, Kathryn Sullivan for McHale.
Match report: Ladies Football (report by Colm Gannon, from where I sourced the above details on subs and scorers).