(Photo – Ladies Gaelic)
Darren Kelly in Pearse Stadium
Galway’s unbeaten start to the National Ladies Football League came unstuck on Sunday as a nervous and error strewn first quarter allowed Mayo a 10-point decisive advantage.
Grace Kelly and Sinead Cafferky got two goals in the opening 16 minutes as Peter Leahy’s team raced into a 2-5 to 0-1 lead. And despite only adding two further minors to their tally, their dominance in midfield, controlled by Aileen Gilroy, ensured their second win.
Galway were strong favourites having won the last five meetings between the rivals. Three weeks earlier in the Winter League Final, the Tribeswomen hit 6-13 but Mayo featured 30 players that day and were more focused.
Stephen Glennon made seven changes from the side that drew with Donegal but they struggled with their match-ups early on as Mayo full forward Rachel Kearns was creating havoc.
Kearns got the opening point before Sarah Conneally took Mairead Seoighe’s pass for Galway’s first. However, despite the absence of Australia-based Cora Staunton, Mayo brought somebody ready to act as a replacement.
Grace Kelly shone in the opening stages getting a point on three minutes. But when she took Fiona Doherty’s pass 60 seconds later, she spotted Dearbhla Gower off her line and lobbed the keeper for the first goal.
Mayo were punishing Galway and the hosts weren’t learning their lessons as they continually gave the ball away. Fiona McHale forced a save from Gower but after Niamh and Grace Kelly stretched Mayo’s lead to six, they hit the insurance score entering the second quarter.
McHale wreaked havoc on Kilkerrin/Clonberne in the 2017 Connacht Club Finals and she was in equally determined mood as Galway’s defence invited their opponents on again before she picked out Cafferky for the second major.
Grace Kelly added a score before Galway finally managed to settle into the occasion. Charlotte Cooney was introduced as Glennon shuffled his team and they slowly started making inroads.
Sarah Lynch won a free that Tracey Leonard converted; Louise Ward gained ground before registering from the left flank and another Leonard placed ball left it 2-5 to 0-4 on 25 minutes.
But even though Galway were looking more assertive, they were labouring with scoring chances and corner back Eilis Ronayne ran up the field for Mayo’s next point.
After Lynch’s foray upfield, Caitriona Cormican was next to advance and the dual star landed two minors before half-time to give the gradually increasing maroon and white support belief they could turn this around.
But they wouldn’t score again for 21 minutes as they again coughed up possession in the final third and after Seoighe and Ailbhe Davoren were sinbinned for yellow cards, they had to retreat with just 13 players.
Shauna Howley scored a Mayo free but the final stages weren’t plain sailing for last year’s All-Ireland finalists. Gilroy and Sarah Tierney also received their marching orders as they went a spell with two players down and Galway got back to within a kick of the ball.
Conneally finished a move involving Ward and Cormican for a point on 51 minutes but just beforehand, Leanne Coen’s low fierce drive went across the goal the wrong side of the post.
However, Galway’s determination eventually was rewarded when Cormican blasted home a superb strike leaving it 2-7 to 1-7. There was still seven minutes to get something but time gradually ticked by as they couldn’t create sufficient opportunities.
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Emma Reaney was also put through only for keeper Elaine Murphy to make the block and the hooter eventually signaled Galway’s race was run. And missing the starting block proved a deficit too big to bring back.
Galway: Dearbhla Gower; Fabienne Cooney, Sarah Lynch, Noelle Connolly; Caitriona Cormican (1-2), Nicola Ward, Sinead Burke; Aine McDonagh, Ailbhe Davoren; Lisa Gannon, Louise Ward (0-1), Deirdre Brennan; Sarah Conneally (0-2), Tracey Leonard (0-2, two frees), Mairead Seoighe. Subs Used: Charlotte Cooney for Connolly (18 mins), Olivia Divilly for Brennan (HT), Leanne Coen for McDonagh (42 mins), Shauna Molloy for Cooney (47 mins), Emma Reaney for Conneally (49 mins), Leanne Walsh for L Ward (52 mins).
Mayo: Elaine Murphy; Eilis Ronayne (0-1), Noirin Moran, Orla Conlon; Marie Corbett, Sarah Tierney, Doireann Hughes: Clodagh McManamon, Aileen Gilroy; Sinead Cafferkey (1-0), Fiona McHale, Fiona Doherty; Niamh Kelly (0-1), Rachel Kearns (0-1), Grace Kelly (1-3). Subs Used: Saoirse Ludden for McManamon (32 mins), Shauna Howley (0-1, free) for Kearns (36 mins), Roisin Flynn for Hughes (53 mins), Amy Dowling for Doherty (65 mins).
Referee: S Mulvihill (Kerry)