"We were gutted to lose by a point" Mayo's Niamh Kelly on falling at the final hurdle
They could almost taste the final.
There's an exciting couple of weeks ahead for football fans. We can't forget the men's replay is on the 14th (hopefully our blood pressure will be returned to normal by then), but here at Her, our eyes will be firmly fixed on the behemoth All Ireland clash taking place in Croker on the 15th.
With the massive push for coverage of women's sport in the last year and the 20x20 campaign making serious inroads, we're expecting to smash the stats and get a great turnout for what is sure to be a nail-biting final.
It's Dublin and Galway battling it out on the day and on this week's episode of PlayXPlay ,we're joined by Mayo's Niamh Kelly who knows better than anyone what those athletes will be feeling when they walk out onto the biggest stage of all.
Listen in to the full show below:
After a tumultuous spell for Mayo, the team can only be proud of what they've achieved in the last 18 months. From their loss in the 2017 final, to the mass walkout in the summer of '18, to reach an All-Ireland semi-final could be described as a return to form, but in reality it's a testament to the sheer graft and dedication put in.
Something that captain Niamh Kelly knows all too well:
"There was obviously huge hype going into the game. I suppose we were obviously all very excited but we knew it was going to be tough as it was the fourth time playing Galway this year, leading up to the game we were very nervous but we were also raring to go and as you know it was a very tight game, it's obviously very disheartening to lose by a single point"
View this post on Instagram
Stepping away from a heartbreaking loss and looking back on such a missed opportunity takes strength and, realistically, a bit of time. Niamh explained to us that she's only now beginning to see what the Mayo panel can take from such a close call and how they'll move on from it:
"There's a lot that we've learned this year, we've a lot of young girls who've come in to the panel too so obviously very disheartening, but we've a lot to look back on and learn from and we'll definitely come back stronger"
Speaking of strength, we've discussed on the show before the importance of it when it comes to the county set-up. Dublin player Niamh McEvoy highlighted previously that gym-age is something that the younger players combat when they dip their toe for the first time. Kelly admits that while the game has changed over the last few years, the younger players (in the Mayo panel anyway) are copping on to the importance of preparation, especially if you have your sights set on the bright lights of Croker:
"I know when we started off like there was no gym programs, it was up to yourself to kind of do that. Obviously strength and conditioning is becoming such a huge part of the set up now and you know a lot of the girls they're doing it now at the underage levels they're doing it at under 16's and minors and you can really see that coming through"
So, is this knowledge of the changing game having an impact on the teams confidence as a whole?
"I definitely think that's probably why a lot of the girls coming in weren't really phased by the county set up because they were doing it underage... it's nearly on par with the men now we'd have the same strength and conditioning as the men at home and we know that we've got the best strength and conditioning that we can have."
With the Kelly sisters preparing to head down under for the AFLW season in October and the Mayo mind-set firmly fixed on the challenges that lie ahead I, for one, would be absolutely terrified to see what what they'll be bringing to the table next season. A young panel yes, but one never to be underestimated!
Support women in sport and get your tickets for the All Ireland Final between Dublin and Galway here.
11.45am – TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship Final – Fermanagh v Louth
1.45pm – TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Final – Meath v Tipperary
4pm – TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship Final – Dublin v Galway