Dublin wary ‘welfare’ row may make Mayo more dangerous
Ciara Trant says loss of players has probably brought Mayo team closer together
Dublin’s Ciara Trant. “As much as they look after us, it is up to us to look after our performances.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Even with the balance of power in their favour, no one on the Dublin women’s football team is about to underestimate Mayo. Especially given where Mayo are coming from and seemingly going.
Saturday’s All-Ireland series meeting at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon (1pm, live on TG4) is the latest instalment of their recent rivalry – after their All-Ireland victory last September, then their Division One league final in May, Dublin are looking to make it three wins on the trot.
Yet Mayo will present a different challenge this time. That’s partly because they are without 12 previous panel members, plus two selectors, all of whom opted out earlier this month over disputed “player welfare” issues.
Manager Peter Leahy pressed on regardless; Mayo fairly thrashing Cavan in their opening game in their group, 3-23 to 4-13, the weekend before last. The message was loud and clear. Dublin came out and beat Cavan last weekend 5-17 to 2-13, and Saturday’s showdown in Roscommon will decide who tops Group Four.
For Dublin goalkeeper Ciara Trant, the threat is that Mayo may be more dangerous than ever.
“In the Cavan game it actually gave them an edge, and it has probably brought them closer together,” says Grant. “I can only speculate about the team. I don’t know much as we are focusing on ourselves.
“Mayo are a great side, and as with any great side you need depth in your panel. They have that, they proved that having lost however many players they lost, and for the other girls to step up and lead, and put in a massive shift and get that result is huge. It proves that they are a more dangerous outfit.”
Both Dublin and Mayo are already assured of their passage to next month’s quarter-finals, but finishing top of the group does give them an advantage (they will play the runner-up in another group). Trant admits the Dublin win over Cavan was softly satisfying, especially given the three-week break since their Leinster final win.
“We weren’t entirely happy with our performance,” says Trant, a schoolteacher in St Michael’s Holy Faith in Finglas, and thus a “full-time” footballer for the summer. “That is expected in your first day out in championship, especially with the big gap from the Leinster final, and the gap between the league and that final was nine weeks. So, we were quite rusty, but there is a quick turnaround for this weekend, and that’s the challenge.”
The “player welfare” issue that divided the Mayo camp is clearly sensitive: none of the players who left, including 11-time All-Star Cora Staunton, have commented further on their exact reasons. A confidentiality agreement signed afterwards has keep a lid on discussions despite some mediation efforts.
“I don’t know what happened,” says Trant. “It is a shock, and it will rattle any team. If any team was to lose 10 or 12 players or whatever it was, that is huge to your panel, and it will have a huge psychological and emotional effect on you. They must have fantastic leaders that are still there in the group to rally them and pull them together.”
What is certain, says Trant, is that the Dublin women’s team get all they ask for, including the same AIG headline sponsor as the men’s and camogie team.
“Mick Bohan, as the leader of our management team, is all the time looking to get us exactly what we need. He leaves no stone unturned. Once we are happy and looked after and enjoying pure football, once we are fit and happy, he is happy.
“You could get everything you ever asked for and not perform on the pitch, or you could get nothing and win an All-Ireland. So, as much as they look after us, it is up to us to look after our performances.”
Dublin’s only loss this year was to Galway in the league. Mayo’s last loss after Dublin was to Galway. On Saturday something has to give.