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'She doesn’t want it to be about Cora Staunton, I don’t want it to be about Cora Staunton'

Mayo manager Peter Leahy says that he’ll sit down with the 11-time All-Star to discuss her inter-county future after the league final.

Cora Staunton in action in the 2017 All-Ireland final.
Cora Staunton in action in the 2017 All-Ireland final.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MAYO MANAGER PETER Leahy has shelved talk that Cora Staunton may return for their Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 final against Dublin on Sunday.

11-time All-Star Staunton returned to Ireland from her AFLW venture earlier this month, with Leahy confirming to The42 shortly after that she was yet to decide on her inter-county future.

After an impressive few months in Australia with Greater Western Sydney (GWS), the question remains whether the 36-year-old will return to the Green and Red for a 24th season.

And Leahy again echoed his words from The Ladies Football Show at yesterday’s league finals captain’s day in the Croke Park Hotel, noting that they have been in contact and the final decision lies with four-time All-Ireland winner Staunton.

Mayo face Dublin in Parnell Park in repeat of the 2017 All-Ireland senior championship final, with Leahy stating that the entire focus is on that and they’ll liaise once again after.

“Me and Cora do contact each other and we know where we stand,” he said.

“Cora is a pure and utter Mayo person. Her angle and my angle is [to] leave it be, get the league final over and we’ll sit down and talk then.

“She’s honouring the girls that are there, that have done the job to get to a league final. She doesn’t want it to be about Cora Staunton, I don’t want it to be about Cora Staunton.

“I don’t want it to be about Peter Leahy either, this is about the girls that have got to a league final, who are playing outstanding football right now so that’s what it’s all about.

peter Mayo manager Peter Leahy. Source: Sportsfile.

“The Cora issue is not an issue in any way shape or form. Cora is a Mayo person, she’s back in Mayo and I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who wouldn’t want Cora Staunton around.

“At the moment we’re leaving it off and we’ll sit down next week and have a chat.”

Leahy, who was involved with the Westerners as a coach last year but has taken the full reins as manager in 2018, had previously confirmed that Martha Carter had returned to the fold but that she wouldn’t be involved in the league.

Carnacon duo Staunton and Carter, along with fellow long-serving star Yvonne Byrne, have almost come as a trio through the years. They all decided to soldier again together in Januray 2017, and there’s a sense that it’s one in, all in.

But Westmeath native Leahy added that Hollymount goalkeeper Byrne’s future was also still unclear

“Yvonne has just so much on,” he said.

“She works in Dublin, she lives in Cavan, it’s practically an impossibility for Yvonne [to play right now]. That’s another issue [where] we’ll chat away but it’s very hard for Yvonne.”

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In their absence, younger players have well and truly stepped up as leaders on their journey to the Division 1 decider against the Sky Blues.

As they dashed Cork’s six in-a-row hopes in the semi-final, Sinead Cafferky inspired while inside forwards Sarah Rowe and Grace Kelly combined for 0-16.

With Staunton, Byrne and Carter yet to pull on the Mayo jersey and inspire as they have for so long, others have taken it in their own hands, Leahy agrees.

Mayo's Cora Staunton, Yvonne Byrne and Martha Carter celebrate at the end of the game Staunton, Byrne and Carter celebrate their 2017 All-Ireland semi-final win. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It’s nearly a shock factor not having them around. Cora, Martha and Yvonne have led the Mayo set-up for a number of years and it was time for other people to step up. In ways it was very difficult, in ways it was a big help because these girls have to find themselves and they have found themselves.

“That can only help Mayo along the way right across the board. I’d be huge into empowering players to stand up and be counted when it matters, let them play externally and express themselves. I’m a huge believer in expression.

“You can train all you want, you can teach people all you want but at the end of the day they’re the ones on the field during that 60 minutes who have to express themselves so I don’t like keeping people in a box, ‘you must do this or you must do that.’ Flair is what the game is all about and individualistic things is what it’s all about.

“Yes, [you can] play within a team atmosphere but you need to express yourself and these girls are starting to express themselves. Our two inside forwards scored 0-16 between them the other day, that’s fair expression. We play two inside, two of them scored 0-16 between them, not a wide between either of them.

“The only wide we had was from one of our backs. Six people scored at the weekend, eight people scored the weekend before that and nine people scored the weekend before that. We’re getting a good spread of scores and that’s because we’re expressing ourselves.

Lidl Ladies National Football League Finals captains day Sarah Rowe and Sinéad Aherne. Source: SPORTSFILE

“No-one gets given out to for taking a shot. No-one gets given out to for doing the wrong thing. As long as everyone openly expresses themselves, that’s the most important thing to me.”

And on Sunday’s showdown: ”It’s another top quality match against the best team in the country, the All-Ireland champions. For us, it’s to match up against them.

“Who doesn’t want to be in a final? It’s exciting.”

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Emma Duffy

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