By DARAGH SMALL
Galway captain Tracey Leonard says losing a Lidl National Football League semi-final to Dublin had a profound impact on the Connacht champions as they take aim at a first TG4 All-Ireland senior title since 2004.
Galway have only claimed the Brendan Martin Cup once, and will look to move another step closer to a second crown when they clash with Mayo in today's quarter-final at Dr. Hyde Park (LIVE on TG4 player, 3pm, with a deferred 7pm screening).
Last year Galway suffered a devastating 6-19 to 1-10 defeat to Cork at this stage. They bounced back this year and claimed another Connacht title, with a 0-17 to 1-12 win against Mayo.
But the 26-year-old Corofin forward says losing to a late Nicole Owens goal, and a 2-8 to 2-7 result at the hands of Dublin on 22 April, helped drive this Galway team forward.
"We got pipped at the post by Dublin. Then to see them go on to win the league title in hindsight we look at it as in, did we leave it behind us?" said Leonard.
"But you have to look at the positives and that Dublin game brought us on an awful lot. Even in the sense of looking at the Connacht final, that game was level at one stage, but the experience of the Dublin semi-final really stood to us.
"We had bottled a lot and in my own head I was thinking, we are not going to lose another one here. That drove us over the line for the Connacht final.
"We went in as underdogs to the Connacht final obviously with Mayo being All-Ireland finalists last year. Especially with the return of Cora Staunton and everything, they were a really strong force.
"But we were glad to come over the line. It was a big game for us. In other years we would have sat back and got beat but I can see more consistency and ruthlessness this year.
"It's great to see because there is a core group of players there. Continuity in management and all of these factors have improved and drove us on."
Since their Connacht final defeat Galway, Mayo have been shorn of their Carnacon contingent, with star player Staunton the most notable absentee.
But Mayo did well in Group 4 of the round robin, with a 3-23 to 4-13 victory over Cavan putting them in position to land a quarter-final spot.
Mayo did succumb to a 3-11 to 1-8 defeat at the hands of Dublin but Leonard knows this will be another massive Connacht derby.
"You look at the Mayo team, and the bulk of that team was there when we played them in the league in Pearse Stadium, and they gave us the run around that day," said Leonard.
"That team with what has happened probably drove them on. And we will have our work cut out because they are such a well drilled side.
"It will be a good indicator of where we are. They are All-Ireland finalists and one of the best teams in the country."