BY MICHAEL GALLAGHER
At Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar
Mayo manager Peter Leahy felt his side deserved to win the TG4 Connacht Ladies SFC Final, but he expects another massive test against Galway in the replay.
Three goals in the second-half from Rachel Kearns, Éilish Ronayne and Grace Kelly saw Mayo turn round a four-point interval deficit, only for Galway captain Tracey Leonard to force the replay with her late free. The sides will meet again on 7 July.
“It’s mixed emotions really after that. I thought we left it behind us a bit. I’m not shocked with our performance. A little bit more composure and experience would have gotten us over the line I think,” said Leahy.
“I’m heading home to watch the game five or six times. Some people go out and have a drink but I’ll sit up until four in the morning until I get my thoughts right on how we need to get better. I think the replay will be very much the same.”
The first half was ferociously competitive with Mayo laying down a serious marker of intent. Galway got off to a flying start with a fine goal from Louise Ward when she waltzed through and blasted to the net, but from then on it was nip and tuck.
Rachel Kearns was moving well at full-forward for Mayo and kept Galway honest at the back but the yellow card flashed at wing-back Ciara Whyte left Mayo under pressure and they trailed 1-4 to 0-2 after the first quarter. Roisin Leonard, Tracey Leonard, Sarah Conneally and Olivia Divilly all pointed, but Mayo’s ferocious tackling was frustrating Galway.
The Green and Red powered back into it with Sinead Cafferky, Sarah Rowe and Kearns to the fore in attack. Galway were held scoreless for a long period but eventually Tracey Leonard got then back on the board with a brace to leave Galway four points clear at the break, 1-6 to 0-5.
Conneally kicked another Galway point straight after the restart but Mayo were on a mission and responded explosively as two goals arrived inside 60 seconds. Rachel Kearns volleyed home after a sizzling run from Kathryn Sullivan and Éilish Ronayne scrambled home another one when Grace Kelly’s effort dropped short.
That spurred Galway into life and points arrived from Tracey Leonard, Megan Glynn and Aine McDonagh to leave them two clear again.
Mayo swept down the pitch again and had the chance to go in front after 43 minutes but substitute ‘keeper Dearbhla Gower saved Sarah Rowe’s penalty.
That didn’t deter the Green and Red and when Grace Kelly raced 50 yards to plant the ball in the net after 50 minutes the home side were one clear, 3-6 to 1-11.
That set up a grandstand finish and Mayo were dealt a huge blow when team captain Niamh Kelly was red carded and Galway were handed the initiative, but all they could muster was a single point from Tracey Leonard before the final hooter sent the thriller to a replay.Tweet