IT CAME RIGHT down to the wire, but Galway came out on top by the minimum to book their spot in their first TG4 All-Ireland senior final since 2005.
Mairéad Seoighe’s double was key in the end at Croke Park but Róisín Leonard was the last-gasp hero, her late, late free-kick ensuring the Tribe came out on top by one point.
After falling at the final hurdle far too many times before, Tim Rabbitt’s side finally booked their All-Ireland final spot. Galway last lifted the Brendan Martin Cup in 2004, with Cork and Dublin claiming every title since then.
Mayo, who’ve had a remarkable journey themselves, will feel hard done by however, considering the drama that unfolded at the death to break hearts all around.
After recalling some of their big guns in Aileen Gilroy, Fiona Doherty and Dayna Finn, Peter Leahy’s side probably started liveliest at HQ but early nerves saw them register three wides in the first four minutes.
Then, Galway struck first blood through a Seoighe — who’s heading for the AFLW next season — goal, after good work from Louise Ward in the build-up.
The Green and Red had a goal chance of their own in the interim, but were kept out with a good save from Lisa Murphy, before they hit their first score with eight minutes on the clock, Sinead Cafferky the player to split the posts.
Roisin Leonard and Sarah Conneally kept the dream Galway start going, before Rachel Kearns had the ball in the back of the net in the Hill end following a brilliant hand-off by Éilis Ronayne.
Seoighe then bagged her second goal to make it 2-2 to 1-1 with 15 minutes on the clock.
Grace Kelly lifted the Mayo charge from there, registering two more scores, but Galway powered on as Olivia Divilly’s darting runs created more opportunities, which the Leonards and Seoighe duly pounced on inside.
Mayo’s Niamh Kelly is tracked by Louise Ward.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Sinead Burke led the Galway defence brilliantly, but it was Mayo who hit the last three points of the half — the Kelly sisters combining and Kearns splitting the posts in between — to leave it 2-5 to 1-6 at half time.
Conneally grabbed Galway’s first of the second half but Mayo bit back immediately, a sublime goal from Niamh Kelly levelling proceedings. The Moy Davitts star went on a gliding individual run, tearing the Galway defence asunder, before rattling the net to make it 2-6 a-piece.
The score remained that way for 14 minutes, despite two further Mayo goal chances being kept out and Galway hitting the post twice — one a Megan Glynn goal chance and the other a Leonard free, until Sarah Rowe struck straightforward free.
Glynn responded immediately from play at the other end. Kearns and Leonard then exchanged well-taken scores, before substitute Gaughan edged Mayo one up through a free.
Just as the clock turned 50, Galway had a goal disallowed. Divilly brilliantly played Leonard in, but the latter was adjudged to over-carry before hitting home.
From there, the nerves kicked in as the clock ran down, both sides kicking some uncharacteristic wides with the scoreline 2-9 a-piece.
That was until Leonard stepped up with just over one minute on the clock, her free from the ground from inside the 45 sailing over the bar to give Galway what looked like the win.
The game didn’t finish up without drama, however, Kearns dancing towards the goal and appearing to double-hop before going to ground just outside the square. But referee Seamus Mulvihill awarded the Tribe a free out to boos around the ground.
Scorers for Galway: Mairead Seoighe (2-1), Sarah Conneally (0-2), Roisin Leonard (0-4, 1f), Tracey Leonard (0-1, 1f), Megan Glynn (0-1), Leanne Coen (0-1)
Scorers for Mayo: Rachel Kearns (1-2) Sinead Cafferky (0-1), Grace Kelly (0-3, 2f), Niamh Kelly (1-1), Sarah Rowe (0-1, 1f), Natasha Gaughan (0-1, 1f)
1. Lisa Murphy (Kilkerrin Clonberne)
of the team
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2. Sinéad Burke (Ballyboden St Enda’s)
3. Nicola Ward Kilkerrin (Clonberne)
4. Sarah Lynch (Naomh Anna Leitir Móir)
5. Orla Murphy (Claregalway)
6. Barbara Hannon (Dunmore McHales)
22. Shauna Molloy (St Fursey’s)
8. Louise Ward (Kilkerrin Clonberne)
9. Áine McDonagh (Moycullen)
10. Olivia Divilly (Kilkerrin Clonberne)
13. Tracey Leonard (Corofin)
12. Mairéad Seoighe (Clonbur)
14. Sarah Conneally (Dunmore McHales)
11. Megan Glynn (Claregalway)
15. Roisín Leonard (Corofin)
19. Leanne Coen for Aine McDonagh (38)
17. Lucy Hannon for Sarah Conneally (44)
18. Mairead Coyne for Barbara Hannon (52)
1. Aishling Tarpey (Foxrock Cabinteely, Dublin)
4. Éilís Ronayne (Davitts)
6. Ciara McManamon (Burrishoole)
3. Danielle Caldwell (Castlebar Mitchels)
5. Kathryn Sullivan (Castlebar Mitchels)
22. Dayna Finn (Kiltimagh)
7. Ciara Whyte (Kilmoremoy)
8. Clodagh McManamon (Burrishoole)
29. Aileen Gilroy (Adamstown)
10. Sinéad Cafferky (Kilmovee Shamrocks)
12. Niamh Kelly (Moy Davitts)
13. Sarah Rowe (Kilmoremoy)
18. Fiona Doherty (Moy Davitts)
14. Rachel Kearns (Cl McHale Rovers)
15. Grace Kelly (Moy Davitts)
20. Lisa Cafferky for Fiona Doherty (37)
9. Emma Needham for Kathryn Sullivan (40)
24. Natasha Gaughan for Sarah Rowe (47)
21. Allanah Duffy for Clodagh McManamon (52)
17. Noirin Moran for Ciara Whyte (54)
Referee: Seamus Mulvihill.
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