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'Rachel is a unique talent. That's her stage, that's where she wants to be'

Multi-talented athlete Kearns hit 1-5 and was a shining light for Mayo in their semi-final loss to Dublin.

Rachel Kearns facing Martha Byrne.
Rachel Kearns facing Martha Byrne.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

MAYO MANAGER MICHAEL Moyles was understandably glum in his post-match press conference, but speaking about the positives and the future gave him reason to be a little bit more upbeat.

Four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin were five-point winners in their Croke Park semi-final on Saturday, always doing enough to hold Mayo off and keep them at arm’s length.

Moyles shared how “horridly disappointed” his side were with their performance afterwards; “shell-shocked” in the first half, as they failed to test themselves against Mick Bohan’s Sky Blues, who now face Meath in an all-Leinster decider.

He spoke about being “at the start of our road,” with Dublin and other teams four or five years further down the line. That certainly augers well for the future.

One big positive. Any more?

“The group of players that’s in there,” he answered immediately. “There’s players in there, they’re 25, 26 with massive experience. Croke Park wouldn’t have fazed them.

“The way that the group has gelled in the last three or four weeks, for a new group of players. You have players that are back that haven’t been there for a while, you have players that were there all the time – that was always going to be our main goal this year, to gel those players. They’ve done that in spades.

“But again, they’re going to be disappointed with today’s performance, which is unfortunate. In the light of day, in a week’s time, when they think about what they’ve achieved this year off the field, that’s massive for us.”

A shining light for Mayo was Rachel Kearns, the MacHale Rovers star finishing with 1-5.

A multi-talented athlete, Saturday brought the curtain down on Kearns inter-county football commitments for the season. Earlier this year she lit up the Women’s National League [WNL] — Ireland’s top-flight for soccer — with Galway WFC, and she also signed for Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] side Geelong.

“Look, Rachel is a unique talent,” Moyles noted. “We have a lot of them on the team, we’re very lucky in that regard. We’re always told we don’t have a marquee forward – we have Rachel Kearns and Sarah Rowe and Grace Kelly and Niamh Kelly.

“They’ve put their shoulders to the wheel an awful lot in the last couple of weeks. That’s her stage, that’s where Rachel wants to be, as she’s shown there today. She’ll be loss when she goes to Australia but that’s the nature of the beast.”

Another thing along those lines for Moyles is the ongoing debate around the need for rule changes in ladies football.

michael-moyles Michael Moyles before the game. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

It’s something Bohan and other managers have been vocal on over the past few weeks, with plenty of talk surrounding Dublin’s physicality and their execution of the tackle at tines.

Former Mayo player and 2001 club All-Ireland winner with Crossmolina Deel Rovers, Moyles, offered his thoughts.

“I was kind of disappointed at times. I felt Rachel Kearns got fouled a lot. That’s just the game, the referee [Seamus Mulvihill] has to interpret it as he sees it, he’s a very good referee.

“We’re just disappointed with — you take the referee out of it, our performance. We had things in our hands and we didn’t make hay while the sun shone. We were disappointed in that regard.

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“There is physicality in the game. I know what Mick is saying — and Mick is a very experienced manager — about tweaking the rules to put a bit more physicality in it. The rules are the rules at the moment and we try to play to them to the best of our ability.”

That, they’ll continue to do.

All in all, the future is bright for Mayo ladies, following an up-and-down few years and a turbulent time off the field.

“Yeah,” Moyles nodded. “Ciara Needham and Tara Needham came on, two young girls. We have Tara Geraghty on the panel, we have lots of young, good talent coming through.

“The minors had a good win last week against Galway. We’re here to bring in youth and put systems in place that are going to have Mayo ladies in good stead for years to come. Long after I’m gone – if I’m still there next year!”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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