Mayo’s footballing twins Ciara and Clodagh McManamon played massive parts in the county’s victory over Donegal a fortnight ago, but there was a massive shock on the bus home when their next opponents were unveiled.
Cavan’s win over Armagh in the opening game of Group 1 looked to have sealed their progress to the last eight, but watching TG4’s live stream on their phones, the Mayo girls were stunned to see Cork turned over by Armagh, which sent the Orchard County through instead.
So Mayo and Armagh meet today at 1pm at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park as part one of a double-header that features Galway and Waterford on the same bill.
Today’s winners will meet in the TG4 All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park on August 25, and no doubt the Mayo squad will be tuned in again on the way home to see if there’s another shock.
“None of us could believe what was happening,” said Clodagh. “But they are a brilliant team. They have the Mackin sisters, Caroline O’Hanlon... we know they are a great team. When Cavan beat them, in our heads we thought we would surely have Cavan. But we have Armagh, and it’s going to be a tough one.”
The McManamons are identical twins, Clodagh the younger of the 27-year-olds by 15 minutes. Both sisters have represented Ireland on the racquetball courts, while Clodagh later took a year away from football to play at the 2015 World Handball Championships in Canada. It is only recently that she quit all other sports to focus on the green and red jersey.
“Handball and racquetball are great for speed, agility and coordination,” said Clodagh.
“It must have helped us avoid serious injury. The same as anyone else, we have had a few sprained ankles and fingers, but we have been very lucky. We haven’t been out of sport for longer than a couple of weeks at a time with injury.”
Positioned in the six and eight jerseys for Mayo, the McManamons have been reunited this year.
“We have played together since day one so we are used to each other at this stage,” said Clodagh, who is usually stationed at midfield.
“Ciara hadn’t been playing for Mayo for the past few years because she is a nurse. But she somehow has managed it with work this year. It was weird for the few years when she wasn’t playing. We have been playing together for the club since we were eight or nine.”
Mayo are attempting to reach the final four for the first time since 2017, when they were beaten by Dublin in the final.
They lost to Connacht rivals Galway at this stage in 2018, but Armagh will provide a less familiar proposition.
“They are after beating Cork which are one of the two top teams in the country,” says Clodagh. “They will probably be favourites. We will just have to see what happens.”