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Late Leonard Free Breaks Mayo Hearts As Galway Make History In Croker

Galway 2-10 Mayo 2-09

Galway are through to the senior ladies football final for the first time in 14 years after a dramatic one-point victory over Connacht rivals Mayo in Croke Park. 

It was a historic day for the sport as it marked the first time that the semi-final stages were held in the Jones’ Road venue and Galway created their own bit of history as they qualified for just their fourth senior decider ever.

However, the Tribeswomen were made work very hard for the win as, despite two first-half goals, Mayo staged a wonderful comeback to level the game for the majority of the second half. A late free from Roisin Leonard sealed the win for Galway while Mayo were left to rue their 13 missed opportunities.

While Mayo created three scoring chances in the opening four minutes, they sent all attempts wide. Meanwhile, on their first effort, Galway buried a goal after good work from Olivia Divilly and Megan Glynn set Mairead Seoighe up for the score. Minutes later, goalkeeper Lisa Murphy kept their lead intact by denying Rachel Kearns a goal from a Grace Kelly free. Eventually, Sinead Cafferky got them off the mark in the ninth minute but the score was soon cancelled out by Roisin Leonard after a blistering run from Louise Ward.

Mayo continued to dominate possession but they were continually frustrated in their forward line where Nicola Ward and Sinead Burke were keeping their danger players under wraps with Sarah Rowe forced to operate from midfield in order to gain possession. However, Mayo proved that if Galway switched off for a second, they would punish them. Éilís Ronayne snuck in behind Galway’s defence and was easily able to take the pass over the top before she set up Rachel Kearns to fist the ball to the back of the net.

Goals were the story of the first half and Seoighe secured her brace in the 15th minute after being brilliantly set up by Glynn once more. Galway’s midfield pairing of Ward and Áine McDonagh were highly influential during this time and the latter was responsible for the best pass of the half when she provided the ball to Seoighe for her first point.

While Mayo’s pressurised defence forced Galway to shoot from afar, they failed to make the same impact as their counterparts in the first period. Galway produced a number of turnovers leaving Mayo to rely on frees from the boot of Kelly for their scores while their wide count stretched to six. Eventually, in the dying seconds of the half, they began to break down the defence and find space leading to points from Rachel Kearns and Cafferky to reduce the gap to two points at the break.

Four minutes into the second half, Mayo levelled the game. Captain Niamh Kelly collected the ball in midfield and despite the attention of Shauna Malloy, Kelly made a blistering run through the heart of the Galway defence and finished the terrific solo effort to the back of the net. Goal number three looked to come just a minute later but Murphy denied Cafferky.

A major moment came in the 39th minute when Galway were gifted an opportunity to regain their three-point lead, however, Glynn’s attempt struck off the bar. Mayo looked to punish the miss, however, Kelly’s attempt sailed wide, their 10th of the game. After a 12-minute lull, during which neither side scored, Rowe registered her first point midway through the second half.

Galway were denied another goal in the final 10 minutes when referee Seamus Mulvihill pulled Leonard for steps after she had stuck the ball in the back of the net, much to the annoyance of their supporters. The side scored one of the points of the game two minutes later when six players were involved in the build-up with quick hands setting up substitute Leanne Coen for the equalising score.

Both sides desperately went in search of the winning scores with the clock ticking down. Lucy Hannon saw her effort drift to the left of the post before Cafferky registered Mayo’s 13th wide of the game. In a dramatic finish to the game, Leonard pointed Galway into the lead through a free but disaster struck for the Tribeswomen when Divilly was yellow carded before Rachel Kearns appeared to be dragged down on the edge of the square. Surprisingly, Mulvihill awarded Galway the free and they held on for the historic win.

Galway: Lisa Murphy; Sinead Burke, Nicola Ward, Sarah Lynch; Orla Murphy, Barbara Hannon, Shauna Molloy; Louise Ward, Áine McDonagh; Olivia Divilly, Megan Glynn (0-1), Mairead Seoighe (2-1); Tracey Leonard (0-1, 1f), Sarah Conneally (0-2), Roisin Leonard (0-4, 1f).

Replacements: Leanne Coen (0-1) for McDonagh (39), Lucy Hannon for Conneally (44), Mairead Coyne for Hannon (53)

Mayo: Aishling Tarpey; Aileen Gilroy, Danielle Caldwell, Éilís Ronayne; Kathryn Sullivan, Ciara McManamon; Ciara Whyte; Clodagh McManamon, Dayna Finn; Sinead Cafferky (0-2), Fiona Doherty, Niamh Kelly (1-0); Sarah Rowe (0-1, 1f), Rachel Kearns (1-2), Grace Kelly (0-3, 2f).

Replacements: Lisa Cafferky for Doherty (38), Emma Needham for Sullivan (40), Natasha Gaughan (0-1, 1f) for Rowe (46), Allanah Duffy for C McManamon (52)

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter