Tierney revels in armband role
MAYO ladies senior captain Sarah Tierney believes Dublin will provide a very different challenge for them than Cork did in the semi-final when they clash in the All-Ireland decider in Croke Park on Sunday next.
Tierney expects Dublin to be a lot more physical and faster, and thinks they will hope to build up an early lead.
However, the Mayo captain - who plays her club football with Hollymount - believes that while Dublin will be odds-on favourites to win, she and her team-mates will remain focused on their own game and keep their feet on the ground as they avoid getting carried away with all the hype that goes along with playing in an All-Ireland final.
“It is just fantastic to have qualified for the final and we are all really looking forward to it,” she said. “But with just days to go, while we are enjoying the build-up to the game, we are not getting carried away and just keeping our feet on the ground.
“While for me personally it is great to be captain of the team. It doesn't bring any great extra pressure as when you have leaders like Cora (Staunton), Yvonne (Byrne), Martha (Carter) and Fiona (McHale) with the experience they have, my job is that much easier. But I suppose the most pressure at the moment is in trying to keep everyone level-headed before the final and keeping the younger players focused. Really, for the players, it is all just about preparing for the final. Everything else is handled well within the camp.”
Although most observers would have thought beating Cork in the semi-final was Mayo’s biggest scalp in this current championship campaign, Tierney said the win over Donegal in the quarterfinal was the big boost.
“We went into that game very much the underdogs as Donegal were on most pundits’ shortlist to go all the way,” Sarah explained. “They were narrowly beaten in the league final and came through their Ulster campaign rather comfortably. Indeed, they were a team that seemed to be getting better and better with each outing.
“As a result of this we were a little nervous going into the game. We had a poor Connaught final against Galway and in the qualifier against Kildare we took a long time before we put them away. So against Donegal that was going to be a massive test for us.
“However, we just went out against Donegal and gave the kind of performance we knew that was in us. We just worked our socks off and got the result that the display deserved.”
Sarah said that they were always confident they could beat Cork. “There had been very little between Mayo and Cork down through the years, despite Cork’s great dominance in terms of winning All-Ireland titles,” she pointed out.
“We were one of the few teams who always ran them very close and were unlucky not to beat them on numerous occasions. There was no sense going out against them with a lack of confidence, and we didn’t. We went at them from the off and came out on top with what was another fine display by the girls.
“Now we’re in the final against Dublin and this will be a totally different challenge. This will be the Dubs’ fourth final in as many years and they will be hoping to get over the line in this one having lost the last three narrowly to Cork.
“They are superbly fit, massive players, very physical, and they have gained a huge amount of experience over the past number of years. We will need a big performance, a big game plan, and to match their physicality.
“When we met in the semi-final last year we had a very bad start and allowed them to go eight points in front. We were playing catch-up after that and had to put in a tremendous effort in the second half to get back on level terms. We were a little unfortunate in the closing moments when we had a chance to take the lead. But they scored the winning point with the last kick of the game.
“Next Sunday we will have to get at them from the off and put the pressure on them and keep it on them. But we are capable of that, and if we can reproduce our best performance we have to be in with a good chance of winning.”
And if she is to receive the cup after Sunday’s final? “We have a special team and there is a great bond between us and the team management. It would be a great honour for me to lift the cup,” said Sarah.