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Donall Farmer/INPHO Back once again: Cora Staunton.
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'She's absolutely flying' - Staunton back with Mayo for a remarkable 24th season
Mayo manager Peter Leahy confirmed the news to The42 today.

CORA STAUNTON IS back with Mayo for a remarkable 24th championship campaign, and ‘absolutely flying’ according to manager Peter Leahy.

After months of speculation which heightened as she signed a new Aussie Rules deal on Monday, Leahy confirmed the news of the 11-time All-Star’s inter-county return to The42 this afternoon.

Staunton, 36, missed the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 campaign as she impressed throughout her debut season in the Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) with Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants.

Westmeath native Leahy revealed this afternoon that she returned to the fold after their league final loss to Dublin last month, and linked up with the squad for their first training session afterwards.

“She’s back training,” he told The42. “Listen, we were always talking. Me and her arranged that she’d come back in when the league was over and she’s back in training.

She’s flying. She finds the pace of the game a lot different than the AFL but she’s absolutely flying. Her skill level… at first, with the round ball, she was struggling for the first maybe half a training session but she’s flying again.

“To be honest with you, [she] very much knows that we’ve stepped up another level and very much is there to get her own place. She knows she has to work hard and she’s doing that. She’s rolling up her sleeves, working hard and concentrating on herself.

“That’s exactly what we need. She knows now that she doesn’t have to carry the team, she has to show her skill. She’s excellent, she’s just working her socks off in training.”

He added: “She doesn’t look like a girl who’s been [playing for] 24 seasons, she’s flying!

“She found the pace of what we’re doing hard but she’s caught up in a couple of weeks. She’s a credit to herself, a credit to her club and to her family.”

As it was announced that the Carnacon sharpshooter had re-signed for GWS, the club stated that she would re-join ‘once her duties with Mayo conclude in November,’ fueling the long-debated question of whether or not she’d return to the inter-county scene.

Leahy joined us on The Ladies Football Show in April stressing that while they were in contact, Staunton was yet to inform him of her decision but that the door was wide open. Again, he echoed his words in the run-up to his side’s league final defeat to the Sky Blues last month.

The four-time All-Ireland champion has been a stalwart in the Green and Red for the past 23 seasons — she debuted in 1995 aged 13 — last appearing in their national decider loss to Mick Bohan’s Dublin in Croke Park last September.

Days before heading Down Under, she inspired Carnacon to their sixth All-Ireland club title — captaining them to glory once again, 15 years after she did so for their first.

Clubmates Staunton and Martha 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 January 2017, and there’s a sense that it’s one in, all in. Carter has also committed to the fold for the 2018 championship, but Hollymount goalkeeper Yvonne Byrne’s future remains unclear.

“I haven’t heard from Yvonne to be honest with you,” the Mayo boss continued. “We chatted a lot earlier in the year and she knows the door is always open.

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

“Martha’s flying in training and pushing herself really, really hard. She found the pace quite strong when she came back but has really caught up very quickly.

Leahy added: “Competition for places is very high.

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“We’ve blooded a few new players and we have 25, 26 players looking for 15 spots. Maybe in years gone by it would have been dominated by the same players all the time, now we have choices.

“All the girls are really working hard for the team, and for themselves too to make a place.”

All focus turns to the Westerners’ Connacht senior final against defending champions Galway on Sunday 24 June, a challenge they are well and truly relishing.

“Galway are the only ones that beat Dublin in the league,” he concluded.

“They ran them to the last minute in the semi-final so arguably, them and Dublin are the teams to beat. Galway would be in the top two, in my opinion, at the moment.

“[Losing to Dublin in the final] was a disappointing end to a good league campaign. But we’re in a new competition now, it starts all over again. It’s all about championship now.”

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