The Mayo women footballers got their season off to the best possible start at MacHale Park this evening. Well on top against great rivals Galway at half-time, they looked destined for defeat as they fell six points behind early in the final quarter. But a stirring late comeback, when they scored 1-4 without reply, saw the home team snatch a sensational comeback win.
I missed the early exchanges – still hammering away on the match report from the men’s game – and when I settled down in front of the TV in the attic we were 1-2 to 0-1 to the good. I didn’t get to see the goal we’d scored until the replays at half-time and saw then that it was more than a touch fortuitous from our point of view. Maria Reilly’s initial effort was blocked by the Galway ‘keeper but it then ricocheted off Maria, off the ‘keeper again and back into Maria’s path and she was then able to control it soccer-style before stroking it to the net.
It was the ideal start for us and from then to the break we looked well on top. We were playing a lovely, expansive brand of football too, spreading the ball well and running hard at the opposition.
Rachel Kearns wasn’t in the first fifteen named in advance but she lined out from the start at full-forward and she was a great outlet inside. Time and again she was first to the quick ball pumped in, collecting it and taking off toward the Galway posts at speed.
The main player to catch the eye in the scoring stakes in that first half was, though, Shauna Howley. She weighed in with four points, three of them from play, and sweet ones they all were, thumped over off the left.
Tamara O’Connor was yellow carded harshly enough in the first half but that didn’t really impact the team all that much. They kept taking the game to Galway and went in a deserved 1-8 to 0-7 in front at half-time.
The teams traded two points each early in the second half – Shauna Howley again on target, as was Rachel Kearns – but the visitors got right back into it when they goaled from the penalty spot. Now we had a real game on our hands.
Rachel Kearns was then sin-binned and for the life of me I couldn’t see what she’d done wrong. It didn’t even look like a foul, never mind one that merited a yellow card.
This card hurt us badly. Galway came at us in waves and soon had raced clear. Their second goal came from an overlapping move, the ball palmed to the net Kate Slevin and by the time Rachel was back on we were six adrift and looked to be heading to another loss to the neighbours.
Then came the stirring denouement. The in-rushing Deirdre Doherty was clipped by the ‘keeper, who really should have been sin-binned for the foul. She wasn’t but the penalty was awarded and Rachel rammed it to the net to cut the gap to two.
?? FULL TIME— Ladies Football (@LadiesFootball) May 22, 2021
? @lidl_ireland NFL Division 1 A@Mayo_LGFA 2-15@GalwayLgfa 2-14
This was the key moment that triggered Mayo's comeback. No stopping Rachel Kearns?@SportTG4 @GAA_BEO @ConnachtLGFA#SeriousSupportpic.twitter.com/CyjJg0327r
Grace Kelly had been sprung from the bench a bit earlier and with the clock now counting down rapidly towards the hooter, she hooked it over off her left to leave just a point between the sides.
It was all Mayo now. From the restart, Rachel won it but was fouled as she tried to burst forward. Over she put the free and now it was all-square.
Galway made a hash of the next restart as well and even worse from their perspective was that they fouled this time right in front of the posts. Deirdre Doherty did the honours this time and, with less than a minute left on the clock, she popped it over to put us back into the lead.
In the remaining second, we hassled, harried and held them as they tried to work the ball up the field. They didn’t even manage to get close to halfway, however, when the hooter boomed out, signalling the end of the match and confirmation of a hugely satisfying smash-and-grab success for the home team.
You could see at the finish just how much this win meant for the team and for Player of the Match Rachel Kearns, who was interviewed on TG4 after full-time:
#MAYvGAL Lán Ama— Ladies Football (@LadiesFootball) May 22, 2021
Maigh Eo 2-15 (21)
Gaillimh 2-14 (20)
"It was tough but it worked in my favour because i could come back with more energy"
Is í @Raachkearns Laoch na hImeartha tráthnóna @Mayo_LGFA ??@lidl_ireland
Next up for the Mayo ladies in their LGFA Division 1A campaign is a trip to Ballybofey where they face Donegal next Saturday evening. Best of luck to them in that one and congrats to them on that stirring win this evening.
Mayo: Laura Brennan; Orla Conlon, Kathryn Sullivan, Tamara O’Connor (0-1); Eilis Ronayne, Clodagh McManamon, Ella Brennan; Fiona McHale, Mary McHale (0-1); Niamh Kelly, Shauna Howley (0-6, two frees), Sinead Cafferkey (0-1); Maria Reilly (1-0), Rachel Kearns (1-3, penalty goal and two frees), Lisa Cafferkey. Subs: Ciara Needham for Reilly (37), Deirdre Doherty (0-1, free) for M McHale, Grace Kelly for S Cafferkey, Ciara Whyte for O’Connor, Ava Lambert for Howley.