By Declan Rooney
Mayo boss Peter Leahy said he was not surprised to see his team sparkle against Cavan in the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC despite a fractious week off the pitch.
Mayo produced a stunning 60 minutes of attacking football where all but one point of their 3-23 came from open play, as last year’s TG4 All-Ireland runners-up drew a line under the departure of 12 players from their squad in the build-up.
“To score 3-22 in a championship match from play is amazing. I don’t think there are many times you’ll see that in a championship match, especially with the emotional energy that was used all week. I think we let the players do the talking today,” said Leahy.
“Our training on Tuesday and Thursday this week was just out of this world. I said if we could bring that into the game today…”
And that they did.
Mayo handed eight championship debuts to players in Clones, but it was the combined 3-18 from the full-forward line of Niamh Kelly, Sarah Rowe, and Grace Kelly that gave them the Group 4 win.
Cavan — who face Dublin next Saturday — made the most of Mayo’s all-out attack and hit goals from Donna English, Aisling Maguire, Catherine Dolan, and Aisling Sheridan, but they fell well short in a 3-23 to 4-13 loss.
In the earlier game in Clones, Monaghan escaped with a 1-11 to 1-11 draw in Group 2 after Caroline O’Hanlon missed a last-gasp free for Armagh.
Blaithin Mackin’s goal had pulled the Orchard County back into contention following a wayward display in front of goal during a first-half that saw Rosemary Courtney hit the net for an efficient Monaghan.
Elsewhere, Kerry manager Eddie Sheehy praised his charges after their winning start to the All-Ireland series against Tipperary at MacDonagh Park in Nenagh.
The Kingdom were relegated from the top flight of the league during the spring and then lost their Munster crown to Cork.
However, Saturday’s 3-13 to 2-10 win over Tipperary was the perfect start to Group 1 with Sarah Houlihan (2) and Andrea Murphy netting for the winners.
“We dug deep and it showed huge character in the team. It is a brilliant result especially after everything that they went through in the year. We have been working hard for this win. The girls themselves do deserve it,” said Sheehy.
Meanwhile, Westmeath also enjoyed a winning weekend with Leanne Slevin’s late pointed free securing a 2-12 to 2-11 win over Waterford.
Westmeath boss Stephen Maxwell said he was thrilled with their start to the campaign after Laura Lee Walsh and Aoife Connolly scored the goals.
“There is potential for a quarter-final now. We have Galway next and we will start building for Galway on Tuesday night,” said Maxwell.
“After Galway, who knows what’s on the other side of the draw. Hopefully we are looking forward to a quarter-final.
“It’s just unbelievable, the girls were fantastic and they deserve all of the plaudits they are going to get this week.”