by Daragh Small
Róisín Leonard came up with the winning free for Galway as they booked their place in the TG4 All-Ireland Championship senior final for the first time since 2005 with victory over Mayo at Croke Park.
This was the Connacht rivals’ fourth meeting of the year and Galway’s third success but it went down to the wire in a thriller.
Galway held a 2-5 to 1-6 lead at half-time, with Mairéad Seoighe scoring both of their goals either side of Rachel Kearns’ strike for Mayo.
Niamh Kelly scored Mayo’s second goal shortly after the resumption and they took the lead going into the closing stages.
Leanne Coen found an equaliser for Galway and then Leonard scored an outstanding free from the deck in the closing stages for what turned out to be the winner.
Mayo sent three early point-scoring opportunities wide and Galway made them pay. It was a stunning move that led to Seoighe’s goal in the third minute. Olivia Divilly combined with Megan Glynn to create the opening. She gave the ball to Louise Ward who spotted Seoighe in space and the Clonbur forward finished emphatically.
Mayo registered another wide while Lisa Murphy saved well with her feet when Kearns fisted a Grace Kelly delivery towards goal.
Sinéad Cafferky scored Mayo’s first point in the ninth minute before Róisín Leonard swung over the first of her brilliant points. Sarah Conneally was through on goal shortly after but opted for a point instead.
Galway were 1-2 to 0-1 ahead and they looked comfortable. Kearns was deadly though and she turned up on the end of Éilis Roynane’s pass to score Mayo’s opening goal in the 12th minute.
The first quarter ended with another devastating Galway move. Niamh Kelly did well to block down Tracey Leonard’s attempt but the ball found its way to Seoighe and she blasted to the net again.
Grace Kelly tapped over her second free but Galway piled on the pressure with Seoighe, Tracey Leonard (free) and Róisín Leonard scoring points.
Grace Kelly’s free was an important score for Mayo but there was more to come and they ended the half better.
A third Grace Kelly point was followed up by efforts from Kearns and Niamh Kelly and they only trailed by 2-5 to 1-6 at half-time.
Róisín Leonard’s pin-point pass set up Conneally’s opener at the start of the second half but Mayo answered that perfectly.
Olivia Divilly of Galway with Mayo's Clodagh McManamon
Niamh Kelly burst through a gap and side-stepped the challenges from Sinéad Burke and Shauna Molloy before another brilliant finish to the net. Sinéad Cafferky had another chance but Murphy made a point-blank save to halt the momentum.
However, the teams were level and Róisín Leonard set up Megan Glynn who was through one-on-one but could only hit the post. The teams went 14 mins without scoring and then scored four points in three minutes.
Sarah Rowe scored a free, Glynn drew the sides level but Kearns and substitute Natasha Gaughan cancelled out Róisín Leonard’s third point.
Róisín Leonard had a goal disallowed for over-carrying but substitute Coen equalised in the 58th minute and Róisín Leonard scored the free to win it.
Scorers – Galway: M Seoighe 2-1, R Leonard 0-4 (1f), S Conneally 0-2, T Leonard 0-1 (1f), M Glynn 0-1, L Coen 0-1
Mayo: R Kearns 1-2, N Kelly 1-1, G Kelly 0-3 (2f), S Rowe 0-1 (1f), N Gaughan 0-1 (1f), S Cafferky 0-1.
Galway: L Murphy; S Burke, N Ward, S Lynch; O Murphy, B Hannon, S Molloy; L Ward, Á McDonagh; O Divilly, T Leonard, M Seoighe; R Leonard, M Glynn, S Conneally. Subs: L Coen for McDonagh (39), L Hannon for Conneally (46), M Coyne for B Hannon (57).
Mayo: A Tarpey; É Roynane, D Caldwell, Ciara McManamon; K Sullivan, D Finn, C Whyte; Clodagh McManamon, A Gilroy; S Cafferky, N Kelly, S Rowe; F Doherty, R Kearns, G Kelly. Subs: L Cafferky for Doherty (37), E Needham for Sullivan (41), N Gaughan for Rowe (49), A Duffy for Clodagh McManamon (56), N Moran for Whyte (59).
Ref: Seamus Mulvihill (Kerry).Tweet