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Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Back at it: Fiona McHale.
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2016 All-Star and Carnacon midfielder re-joins Moyles' Mayo set-up
Fiona McHale – who’s one of four Carnacon players to return – had been absent since 2018.

MAYO HAVE BEEN boosted by the return of 2016 All-Star and Carnacon midfielder Fiona McHale to the Green and Red set-up.

In an interview with the player herself, The Mayo News report that McHale has accepted an invitation from new manager Michael Moyles to rejoin the set-up.

The 33-year-old was one of 12 players to leave the panel in the summer of 2018, originally citing “player welfare issues” as the reason for their departure. She was vice-captain at the time, with Peter Leahy in charge.

Eight Carnacon players left at the time, and none — or then captain Sarah Tierney of Hollymount, among others —  have since represented the county under Leahy’s watch.

McHale, who’s widely considered one of the best midfielders of the modern era, indicated that she was open to a potential return to the Green and Red set-up in 2021 under new management in an interview with Midwest Radio in January.

And this week she told the Mayo News that she was back on board in a “provisional, open-ended training panel,” alongside four Carnacon clubmates in Sadhbh Larkin, Amy Dowling and Saoirse Walsh.

“It’s been hard not being involved,” McHale, who has dipped her toes into coaching with the Claremorris mens’ senior football team, Carnacon underage sides and University of Limerick [UL], and recently undertook a role as vice chair of the GPA’s Next Gen, said. 

“I’d been involved with Mayo since 2004 and I’ve put a lot of time and a lot of energy into playing for Mayo and trying to win an All-Ireland essentially It’s ultimately what we were always there for.”

“It’s been well documented that I just didn’t want to be part of that environment,” she added, summing up her 2018 departure. 

“I believe that the team environment I have now is really approachable. It’s a very approachable management team and it’s one that asks us for a lot of our feedback and a lot of our input as well.”

The news comes after star forward and underage soccer international Rachel Kearns signed for Women’s National League [WNL] side Galway WFC at the weekend. It’s unclear yet whether the dual star will balance both, or concentrate solely on soccer for 2021.

Despite controversial off-field matters and their disappointing championship exit at the hands of Armagh in 2020, Mayo have been a consistent force at senior level over the past few years.

Following their last All-Ireland final appearance in 2017, they reached the quarter-final in ’18 and the semi in ’19.

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With Moyles’ star-studded management team and plenty of young talent in their ranks, the future certainly looks bright, and now, with a new county board in place — Des Phillips is the chairman — after problems in that department, it looks like 2021 will be all about the football. Former Mayo player and club All-Ireland winner Moyles has called it “a clean slate”.

McHale’s Carnacon team-mate, Cora Staunton, has re-iterated several times recently that her “Mayo days are done,” ruling herself out a return.

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