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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 24 August, 2019
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Big day in Croker ahead with old foes Mayo and Galway going head-to-head for All-Ireland final spot

The ladies football semi-final line-up was confirmed this weekend, with all eyes on 25 August.

We're in for a repeat of the 2019 Connacht decider.
We're in for a repeat of the 2019 Connacht decider.
Image: SPORTSFILE.

THE FINAL FOUR. 

We’re down to back-to-back champions Dublin, 11-time winners Cork and Connacht rivals Galway and Mayo in the TG4 All-Ireland senior championship, with Croke Park hosting the semi-finals on Sunday, 25 August.

The last four meeting of arch-rivals Dublin and Cork was confirmed last weekend, and now we know who’s joining them in the double-header at HQ after Peter Leahy’s Green and Red and the Tribe won their respective quarter-final clashes on Saturday.

The general feeling after, of course, was joy to be heading to Croke Park, where the semi-finals will be staged for the first time ever, with the race for the Brendan Martin Cup well and truly reaching the business end.

Mayo were three-point winners over Armagh on Saturday; Sarah Rowe and Maria Reilly hitting the all-important goals that sent the Westerners on their way.

Mayo v Armagh - TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final Emma Needham and Sarah Rowe celebrate their win. Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Reaching this stage of the competition this year comes as a huge feat for the county, considering the rollercoaster ride they’ve been on over the past 23 months or so.

From defeat in the 2017 All-Ireland final to the well-documented mass player walkout last summer, they’re definitely clawing their way back to the top. Their revival has been nothing short of admirable.

“It is good to be back in Croke Park,” Leahy said after their quarter-final win. “There has been a lot of tribulation over the last couple of years for Mayo.

This is a journey for the girls. We did a video for them recently about their journey. Every team has a point where it becomes a new team. We became a new team last year after all that happened.

“We are an open book. Warts, cuts and all we just get on with it. It has been my most enjoyable year coaching any team.”

Connacht champions Galway, meanwhile, set up a repeat of the provincial decider – which took a replay to decide after a thrilling drawn game — after their five-point win over Waterford in dreadful conditions. Tracey Leonard’s 1-5 helped Tim Rabbitt’s charges overcome a stern Déise challenge, and march on.

While they’re back in the last four once again, the Tribe haven’t progressed to the showpiece since 2005, where they lost to Cork. From there, the Rebels, of course, went on their reign of terror.

Galway v Waterford - TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final Sarah Conneally, Charlotte Cooney, Olivia Divilly and Lisa Murphy all smiles after Galway's win. Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Having last won in 2004, they’ll hope to use the hurt of past defeats to bridge that gap and ultimately, end their silverware drought.

“It’s a fantastic occasion for the girls to be getting up to Croke Park,” Rabbitt, who’s in his first year as manager, said after their win.

“Galway supporters have been great all year long and we will be asking them to come out. No doubt Mayo will have a big crowd at it. We lost the semi-final last year. We know what that will be like although it will be a unique occasion in Croke Park.

I was with the girls last year when we were beaten so I know what it is like to lose a semi-final as well.

“It is a nowhere position because at least if you get to the final you are there on the biggest day of the year. It will be very important we put in a big performance.”

He added on the game itself: “I couldn’t take away from us, the amount of heart, the effort, the tracking, hassling and tackling we did.”

“We really had to dig in today in these conditions. It wasn’t a day for nice football. I would be really proud of the girls.”

TG4 All-Ireland semi-finals – Sunday, 25 August

  • Mayo v Galway, 2pm, Croke Park
  • Dublin v Cork, 3.45pm, Croke Park

Elsewhere over the weekend, Cavan secured their senior status for 2020 with Westmeath and Monaghan now set to battle it out in a relegation dogfight. 

In the intermediate grade, 2018 All-Ireland junior champions Limerick were relegated back down after losing out to Laois, and Wicklow also dropped following a dramatic defeat to Leitrim.

The semi-finals there had already been decided with 2017 champions Tipperary and Sligo [throw-in 3pm], and Meath and Roscommon [throw-in 4,45pm] going head-to-head for two final places at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on Saturday, 17 August.

Fermanagh and London, and Antrim and Louth form the semi-final pairings in the junior grade.

- With reporting from Daragh Small, and quotes from the LGFA  

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Emma Duffy

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