Galway’s self-belief powers them back into All-Ireland final
One-point win over Mayo sees Galway face Dublin in bid to end 15-year drought
Niamh Collins of Dublin is fouled by Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien, resulting in a penalty, during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies’ Senior Football Championship semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ephie Fitzgerald was bidding adieu, Peter Leahy was busy being defiant, Mick Bohan was beyond buoyant and Tim Rabbitt, well, he was just pinching himself. Between them, then, the All-Ireland semi-finals managers provided the full gamut of emotions in the aftermath of their respective contests, the upshot of which will see Dublin take on Galway in three weeks’ time back at Croke Park in the final, while Cork and Mayo lick their wounds.
The last time a county other than Dublin or Cork won the senior All-Ireland title was in 2004 when Galway won their one and only title by beating the Dubs. They’d be forgiven for thinking most folk already assume it will remain their only title come September 15th when Dublin will be overwhelming favourites to beat Rabbitt’s young side.
Leahy, though, after seeing his Mayo side beaten by a point, was the first to tell them that they’re capable of producing the mother and father of all shocks when he spoke to them after the game. “I went in to the middle of the Galway girls and told them to believe in themselves, believe they are good enough – and I believe they are. We rate Galway so highly, and always believed if we could beat them we could beat anyone.”
While the defeat was gut-wrenching for Mayo, Leahy saluted the players for their Championship run, all done without any representation from Carnacon following last year’s monster fall-out.
“It has been the most enjoyable year for me, the character the players have shown has been amazing. A lot of people wondered if we’d sink or swim, people were afraid to get involved in case we were a failure, but Mayo is bigger and stronger than anyone and we’ve proved that over the year. Mayo’s never going to die, Mayo is stronger than any individual, than any people who are on and off the team,” he said.
We have got to make sure that it is a regular kind of thing now, that it is not once every 15 years or so
Rabbitt, meanwhile, was busy saluting everyone who had contributed towards the effort to get Galway back to a final after that lengthy drought.
“Just so proud of the players, this is the culmination of about three years’ work. People in the background, Stephen Glennon the previous manager, they have done massive work to get this team to an All-Ireland final. There is a lot of work being done in Galway Ladies’ Football. There is a lot of really good people involved in it. We have got to make sure that it is a regular kind of thing now, that it is not once every 15 years or so. There has to be a bit of continuity to it.”
Later in the afternoon Fitzgerald announced that he was stepping down as Cork manager after their six-point defeat by Dublin, although he insisted that the decision had already been made before the game.
“I’ve four years done and I think it’s time for a new voice. I’ve a family at home that I haven’t given as much time to the last few years as I should have been doing. There are a lot of factors, there’s my work as well, a lot of things I want to focus on.
“Everyone told me it was a poisoned chalice after all the success,” he said in reference to succeeding Eamonn Ryan, who won 10 All-Ireland titles during his 11-year reign, “but we won an All-Ireland and three Leagues, so we haven’t done too badly, I suppose.”
The only dampener on an otherwise perfect day for Bohan was the sight of Nicole Owens hobbling off the pitch after just three minutes, the forward seemingly aggravating an existing knee injury.
Three weeks ago we weren’t in a good place. We weren’t playing good football
“She sustained it in the warm-up in the Monaghan game a month ago, it was a ligament injury. The work she has done to try and prepare it to get back for today was just colossal. I think she’s done something like 30 one-on-one sessions. For her, it’s obviously a huge blow. The only thing I can say about that is it just reveals the character that’s in our group, that we have people who are willing to do whatever it takes to try to be successful.
“And three weeks ago we weren’t in a good place. We weren’t playing good football. We certainly didn’t hit the tempo that was required for this end of the championship. But we were hugely impressed by the way these guys went about it, particularly over the last fortnight. Just the maturity in the group in knowing that they had to get up a couple of notches, and the way that they approached training and the leadership they showed to make the thing work. I’m so proud of our group today.”
Dublin v Galway it is, then. And the Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association will be hoping for a vast increase on Sunday’s attendance of 10,886 for the double-header, the first time the women’s semi-finals were staged in Croke Park, compared to the record attendance of 50,141 at last year’s final.