The triumphs and tribulations of Mayo

Having reported on Mayo’s four-successive
All-Ireland final appearances, Ivan Neill looks back
and relives some memorable moments from those games
at Croke Park


1999 – History

Memories from this chapter in the history of Mayo ladies
football are endless. According to the form book, Mayo
had no chance of applying the brakes to Waterford’s
bid to capture its second-successive title, particularly
as chief gunner Cora Staunton had sustained a fractured
collarbone in the build-up to the game. Cora did line
out at corner-forward for the throw-in but was replaced
by Orla Casby within two minutes. Mayo’s victory was
something special, but what really brought the tears
to my eyes sitting on the upper Hogan Stand was the
sheer grit, determination and courage displayed by the
Mayo heroines. I still have visual memories of the magnificent
fielding by centre-back Yvonne Byrne and the tormenting
run by left-half forward, Sinead Costello towards the
Waterford posts to land a point at a critical stage
of the game. Was it any wonder, then, that the Mayo
heroines won the admiration of the 25,000 people in
Croke Park and of the live tv viewing audience for serving
up such a memorable performance against all the odds.

Mayo: Denise Horan; Nuala O’Shea, Helena Lohan,
Imelda Mullarkey (0-1); Marcella Heffernan, Yvonne Byrne,
Niamh Lally; Claire Egan, Christina Heffernan (0-3);
Maria Staunton, Cora Staunton, Sinead Costello (0-1);
Diane O’Hora (0-6), Sabrina Bailey (0-1), Martha O’Malley.

Subs used: Orla Casby and Shelly Gibbons.
Referee: Finbar O’Driscoll (Dublin)



2000 – Affirmation 


Having defeated Waterford the previous year, many had
looked on the 2000 final clash between the same two
counties as a real opportunity for the Waterford ladies
to take their revenge. But, like the true champions
they proved themselves to be, the Mayo heroines’ tremendous
battling qualities shone through in the closing, exciting
minutes. It was a real roller-coaster affair with the
lead alternating several times with the counties locked
in combat on four occasions. Cora Staunton, compensating
for her previous year’s mishap, produced a player of
the match performance. There were many others who would
have deserved Oscars as well and some of those who come
to mind include Christina Heffernan, Claire Egan, Rachel
Barrett, Helena Lohan, Denise Horan, Maria Staunton,
Yvonne Byrne and Rachel Barrett, whose last few seconds
blockdown in the middle of the field denied the Waterford
ladies of a possible equalising point. One of the abiding
memories from this final was the coolness and confident
manner in which Yvonne Byrne drilled home Mayo’s penalty
twelve minutes into the second half.
Mayo: Denise Horan; Nuala O’Shea, Helena Lohan,
Niamh Lally; Orla Casby, Assumpta Bohan (0-1) Yvonne
Byrne (1-0); Marcella Heffernan (0-1), Rachel Barrett;
Maria Staunton (capt), Christina Heffernan (0-1), Claire
Egan; Diane O’Hora (0-1), Cora Staunton (2-2), Sabrina
Subs used: Denise McDonagh (for Bailey); Martha
O’Malley (for Maria Staunton), Imelda Mullarkey (for
Referee: Christy Haughney (Carlow).

2001 – Heartbreak 

LAOIS 2-14 MAYO 1-16

The memories I hold from this particular final will
probably never fade from my mind or, for that matter,
from the memory banks of the Mayo players who had performed
out of their skins to bring the Brendan Martin Cup to
Mayo for a third successive year, only to see their
dreams shattered in a cruel fashion in the final ten
seconds. The game was tied at 2-13 to 1-16 and a replay
looked almost certain. The final twenty seconds on the
clock was winding down as Mayo goalkeeper and team skipper
Denise Horan prepared to kick the ball out. She opted
to kick short to Cora Staunton to ensure retaining possession,
however Cora stepped inside her own twenty metre line
to collect the ball – the first fatal mistake Mayo had
made in six championship games, including three All-Ireland
finals. The gods must have decided that an error was
overdue. The Mayo support among the 21,000 attendance
could not believe their eyes when Sligo referee Marty
Duffy awarded a 14-metre free to the Leinster champions.
Mayo’s hat-trick dreams had been in bits before Mary
Kirwin converted the free to leave Laois celebrating.
But, according to the old adage, good fortune for some
and misfortune for others will always play some role
in major contests. So it proved at the new-look Croke
Park on September 30, 2001.
Mayo: Denise Horan (capt); Assumpta Bohan, Helena
Lohan, Edel Biggins; Orla Casby, Nuala O’Shea, Maria
Staunton; Claire Egan (1-0), Christina Heffernan (0-2);
Jackie Moran, Emma Mullin, Denise McDonagh; Diane O’Hora
(0-3), Marcella Heffernan, Cora Staunton (0-11).
Subs: Ciara McDermott, Imelda Mullarkey and Mary
T. Garvey.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).

2002 – Back at the top 


Teenager Triona McNicholas’ last-minute title-winning
point for Mayo and the subsequent match-winning save
by Mayo goalkeeper, Denise Horan, are the two big moments
that are locked in my memory bank. Both needed to happen,
first at the Railway End and then at the Canal End to
ensure a Mayo victory. The scenes around the grounds
following the final whistle were completely against
the wishes of the stewards, as no one was to be allowed
onto the playing area after the game But no one from
Mayo was listening to the announcements. The flag-waving
scenes following the game are still visually clear as
Christina Heffernan, applauded by An Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern, made the short trip onto the new Hogan Stand
to accept the Brendan Martin Cup on behalf of Mayo for
a third time in four years. It was a delighted Mayo
supporter who remarked coming out of Croke Park that
it was Mayo ladies captain, Diane O’Hora, who accepted
the cup for the last time on the old Hogan Stand in
’99, and it was a Mayo ladies captain who first accepted
The Brendan Martin cup on the new Hogan Stand in 2002.

Mayo: Denise Horan; Nuala O’Shea, Helena Lohan,
Mary T. Garvey; Claire O’Hara, Yvonne Byrne, Edel Biggins;
Claire Egan, Edel Reilly; Jackie Moran, Emma Mullin,
Christina Heffernan (0-1); Ciara McDermott, Marcella
Heffernan (0-2), Cora Staunton (0-8).
Subs used: Triona McNicholas (0-1), Rachel Barrett,
Sharon McGing, Michelle McGing.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).

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