AT the beginning of the year, Mayo manager Frank Browne said he was targeting a glorious September swan song for ace forward Cora Staunton. This was after the Mayo star informed Browne she was committing to the county senior team for another year.
“It’s probably something we’re afraid to think about too much but it would be great to see Cora on the Hogan Stand steps on the last Sunday in September,” said Browne at the time.
Although things didn’t go according to plan regarding the Connaught championship, with Mayo losing to arch rivals Galway, things did improve and now Browne’s targeting of a glorious September is very much on course as they are just 60 minutes away from winning the ultimate prize, the Brendan Martin Cup, when they face the Dubs in Croke Park on Sunday.
But Browne admitted the team were down in the dumps after the Galway game. Despite this, he knew they would come back and give it their all as he knew he was working with a very special bunch of players who were willing to put their heart and soul into training and leave no stone unturned to achieve their goal.
“We were ferociously down in the dumps after the Connaught final because we’d surrendered to Galway, and nobody likes doing that. But we went away and what we did was draw a line underneath it. You just couldn’t analyse it as we were so bad, but we said we were going to go back to basics. We were going to work hard, train hard, get three or four key principles, and that’s what we tried to work on all the way through it.
“All of these plans have worked to date and as a result we have qualified for the All-Ireland final. The girls deserve great credit as the one thing they show time and time again is character. Indeed, I can’t expand enough about their character and you never doubt it. We saw it against Kildare, Donegal and in the semi-final against Cork. I just couldn’t have asked more of them.
“Having said that, I must also pay tribute to my full back-room team. They have been top class and worked very hard with the girls. They are a good group of people and have supported the girls with strength and conditioning, statistical analysis, rehab and prehab, a good support mechanism.”
Browne went on to say they would prepare for the final just like all the other games and that their focus would be on getting their own game right and not worrying about Dublin.
“We know, as everyone else knows, that Dublin are a very good team. They have a great set-up and have been knocking on the door for the last three or four years.
“They beat us in a heartbreaking finish last year in the semi-final and that really hurt us. Sinéad Aherne broke our hearts with the last kick of the game. Afterwards we sat in that dressing room and it was like a tomb in there. But we promised ourselves we’d come back. We have done that, but it’s not worth a damn unless we finish the job next Sunday.”
The manager also said he was happy that Mayo now have a very good team with plenty of back-up on the bench.
“We have a very good all round side. Indeed the panel is very strong and as a result there is constant competition for places, which keeps everyone on their toes.
“Between the posts Yvonne (Byrne) is so dependable and the defence in front of her have been just magnificent. They work so hard as a unit and just have got better and better. Aileen (Gilroy) and Fiona (McHale) are as good a midfield as you get and we have their brilliant work rate in the last number of games.
“In attack we have so many options now. Of course Cora (Staunton) is the ultimate team player, but we would have felt that other teams would have looked upon us as a one-trick pony. But that is not the case now as we have the Kellys, Niamh and Grace, Sarah Rowe, Doireann Hughes and young Ciara Whyte all capable of being a match winner.
“The bench is also very strong. We saw that the last day against Cork when Amy Dowling came off the bench - she had put the ball in the back of the net within a minute.
“But it will all depend on how they perform on the day. If they can produce a performance they are capable of then they have to be in with a great chance. All we can hope for is that they can and everyone will enjoy this magnificent occasion.”