FIVE teams go in search of the Mayo Women's League 2015 title as the season kicks off today (Sunday, March 22).
The league has a new sponsor for the 2015 season; it will be known as the Artec Facilities Management Mayo Women's League. The company is based in Belmullet and the league is delighted to team up with a company of this stature to work with to improve the profile of women's football in Mayo.
Although the numbers competing in the league are small, it is very competitive. Along with the league title, the teams will also compete for the Mayo Cup, the Mary Walsh Cup and the Mayo Shield. All the clubs have entered the Connaught Cup also, and the recent draw has thrown up two all-Mayo clashes. Manulla make the short trip to Castlebar Town while Killala go along the north Mayo coast to Kilmore.
Defending champions Ballina Town are at home to Colemanstown. All five Mayo clubs will also compete in the WFAI Intermediate Cup, where again Ballina Town are the defending champions.
Manulla are the defending Mayo League and Mayo Cup holders and will be seeking a third league title in a row having won the title for the first time in 2013. Manulla won the Mayo Cup for the first time last season. Manager Joe King will again be at the helm for his eighth season in charge of the central Mayo side.
In 2012 Joe guided Manulla to the WFAI Junior Cup final and most of that team are still playing with the club. Manulla will have a mix of youth and experience and will look to experienced players like Louise Mulready, Sinead Flannery, Tracey Hall, Aoife and Stacey Freyne, Mary Gill and Aoife Brennan to guide and help the younger players like Simona Fernandes, Megan Costello, Hannah Flatley, Anna Lawlor, Rachel King, Laura King, Roisin Henry and Laura Regan through another campaign.
Ballina Town are the perennial cup specialists and are the holders of the WFAI Intermediate Cup, Connaught Cup, Mary Walsh Cup and the Mayo Shield titles from 2014 and will be seeking a third Connaught Cup title in a row in 2015. Manager P.J. Moyles will again be at the helm of the Moysiders with John Connolly as his trusted assistant.
Town will again be backboned by the majority of the players who lifted the WFAI Cup. They will, however, be without the services of Patricia Coyle, who has emigrated to Canada, and Sarah Rowe, who is signed with Raheny in the Continental Tyres Women's National League. Against that, Ballina can still call on the services of players of the calibre of Aine McLean, Noreen Rolston, Amy Roddy, Niamh Connolly, Mary McHale, Aoileen Collins, Siobhan Roddy, Ailish Collins, Orna O'Dowd and Megan Duffy.
Castlebar Town have been runners-up to Manulla in the league for the last two seasons and so will be looking to go one step further this year and clinch the title for the first time. They were also runners-up to Ballina Town in the Mayo Shield final in 2014. John Flanagan and Kevin Sheeran will again be joint managers for 2015 and bring a wealth of expierence to the job.
Again they will have a youthful side but with some of their players playing GAA with the Mayo ladies in the National Football League, it could affect their chances. They will look to the Patterson sisters, the Brody sisters, Anna Touhy, Kirsten Sheeran, Erina Flannery, Chloe Morley, Amy Dowling and Hannah McHale to bring silverware to Moneen.
Kilmore are the club carrying the flag for the Erris area and have been in the Mayo Women's League every year since its formation. They won the league in 2012 but have had two frustrating seasons since. Ritchie Flannery and Joe McNulty are again in charge of Kilmore and will leave no stone unturned in their quest to bring the title back to the barony.
Runners-up in the Mayo Cup and the Mary Walsh Cup in 2014, Kilmore have the players to do the business. They will look to players like Annie Lynskey, the Barrett sisters, Catherina and Rachel, the Doherty sisters, Michelle and Christina, Michelle Lynch, Roisin Green, Ailish Coyle and Tammy O'Connor to lead them to more titles in 2015.
Killala are making a welcome return to the Mayo Women's League after being out of it for a number of years. The club has always produced very talented ladies, with Aileen Gilroy being capped at all levels for the Republic of Ireland. Their underage academy is still working well and they have again produced another crop of players who can bring the glory days back to the club.
The side will be managed by Dave Munnelly and will be powered by the experienced Emma and Yvonne Gilroy, Elaine Lowther, Ciara McDonnell, Leslie Gaughan and Sarah Farrell, plus members of last year's Under 16 Connaught Shield-winning side such as Emma Munnelly, Allison Munnelly, Collette Collins, Megan Bilbow and Grainne McHale.
Finally, Castlebar Celtic had entered the league for 2015 but pulled out over a lack of numbers. Celtic, of course, have a senior team participating in the Continental Tyres Women's National League and many of their adult players are signed up to that team.
The league's first fixtures today are Manulla v Ballina Town and Kilmore v Castlebar Town.