Galway survive Staunton Onslaught to reclaim Connacht Crown

Galway entered the TG4 Connacht Championship final as favourites to retain their crown for the fourth year in a row but they met a Mayo team that had other ideas as Cora Staunton inspired her county to a fantastic display that fell just short.

9 August 2014; Cora Staunton, Mayo. TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship, Round 2 Qualifier, Mayo v Westmeath, Pearse Park, Longford. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***
Cora Staunton who produced a wonderful display in defeat to Galway in the Connacht Final

However, this looked like it would be a one sided contest in the early running as Mayo struggled to deal with Galway’s pace and forward movement. Louise Ward fisted the fist point of the match within seconds of the start and Maria Hoey added another to leave Galway 2 points to the good within a minute of the thrown in. Galway made good use of the stiff wind as they raced to a 7 points to 1 lead with Cora Staunton scoring a free for Mayo’s only score. However, the Carnacon legend was far from finished as she lead the Mayo revival. Cora scored a further 8 points in the first half as she dragged Mayo back into contention and she could easily have had a goal if her driven effort 20 minutes into the first half had crept under the crossbar. Galway too had a good chance of a goal as Sinead Burke raided forward in typical fashion but her close range effort was well saved by Ailsing Tarpey although Annette Clarke did point from the rebound.

At half time Mayo trailed Galway by 9 points to 11 but with a stiff breeze at their backs in the second half and Cora in inspired form they will have fancied their chances of pushing on to win the match. Olivia Divilly and Cora Staunton swapped early points before Staunton struck for the games only goal as Yvonne Byrne played a perfect long pass into her hands and Cora made no mistake. Niamh Kelly then added a point from play with Cora following up with a free before Tracey Leonard kicked a badly needed point for the Tribeswomen. Leonard and Staunton swapped frees before Roisin Leonard kicked over a beautiful long range free from the ground for Galway.

Fiona McHale, who had been superb throughout for Mayo had a chance for a goal which was well set up by Cora Staunton but her rasping drive went just over the crossbar. Mayo’s chances were then given a huge boost as Galway lost Emer Flaherty to the sinbin with 14 minutes to play but Mayo never truly punished Galway who seemed to rally for the remaining minutes. Annette Clarke, who had been flawless with frees throughout, then brought Galway within a point with Roisin Leonard equalising well from play. Mayo replied again thanks to a Cora Staunton free but with time running out Tracey Leonard kicked an equalising free from short range before substitute, Patricia Gleeson stepped up to score a long range point that was to prove to be the winner as Galway held onto the ball for the remaining minute leaving Mayo to chase shadows.

In truth this was a lucky escape for Galway who were second best in many exchanges but there can be no doubting their courage and resilience when all was seemingly lost. For Mayo it is a case of what might have been as Cora Staunton accounted for an incredible 1-15 of 1-17. Fiona McHale was superb throughout as was Martha Carter at the back alongside Doireann Hughes, up front Aileen Gilroy was effective as was chief creator Yvonne Byrne whilst Niamh Kelly certainly announced her arrival with an all action display. Galway’s best performers were all on the attacking side of the field with Tracey and Roisin Leonard leading the way whilst Olivia Divilly and Louise Ward were tireless workers as Annette Clarke showed great leadership throughout. However, it will be the performance of Cora Staunton that will be remembered as she produced another vintage display for Mayo.

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