"This is our year to get to an All-Ireland final but it is after about three years’ work"
By Daragh Small
Galway 2-10 Mayo 2-9
Galway manager Tim Rabbitt said that it has taken at least three years of hard work to get them back into the TG4 All-Ireland final for the first time since 2005.
Rabbitt, who took charge this season having worked with previous manager Stephen Glennon, praised his charges for the way they edged out neighbours May in a gripping semi-final at Croke Park.
“Really proud of them. Did a lot of good things in that first half but we let them back into the game and it was touch and go the whole time. There was nothing between the two teams. It just fell our way at the end,” said Rabbitt.
“But the girls kept battling. Things went against us at different times. We hit the post and crossbar, different stuff like that. This is a combination of about three years’ work. People in the background like Mike Comer, Noel Kelly and Stephen Glennon, the previous manager, they have done massive work to get this team to an All-Ireland final. This is our year to get to an All-Ireland final but it is after about three years’ work.
LEONARD COMES UP HUGE IN THE CLUTCH!!pic.twitter.com/ic2BlVnZDx
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) August 25, 2019
“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.”
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 led by 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.
Galway enjoyed a great start with Seoighe finishing off a great move involving Olivia Divilly, Megan Glynn and Louise Ward to shoot to the net after just three minutes.
But Mayo, denied a goal when Galway goalkeeper Lisa Ward saved with her feetwhen Kearns fisted a Grace Kelly delivery towards goal, hit back and Kearns found the net after a pass from Éilis Roynane after 12 minutes.
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.
A third Grace Kelly point for Mayo 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.
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.
The teams went 14 mins without scoring and then scored four points in three minutes.
Sarah Rowe scored a free for Mayo, 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 for Galway before Leonard kept her nerve and landed a late free to send them into the All-Ireland final.
Mayo manager Peter Leahy said they didn’t convert their chances.
“We dominated the game very early but we didn’t man the runners, we let them get an easy goal. But for the first 15 minutes there was only one person who had the ball which was us,” said Leahy.
“On our shot selection we took our time to settle in the game. But from the actual dominating of the game I didn’t think we did. I thought we destroyed their kickout and made them go short in every single kickout because we won every single time they went long. It is a ploy we have had all year.
“We just didn’t convert enough of the ball we turned over.
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).