MAYO ladies football captain Niamh Kelly says the new inter-county championship structure will definitely raise the intensity of games when action resumes in October.
Under the newly-restructured LGFA senior championship format, there will be no provincial championships. Instead, Mayo will face Armagh and Tyrone in a round-robin group of three teams, with the winners qualifying for the semi-finals.
No dates have yet been confirmed for any of the fixtures, but just one defeat under this format would mean almost certain elimination.
However, Kelly says that she and her Mayo team-mates — who were beaten by eventual champions Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final — are relishing the prospect of facing the Ulster counties later in the year.
“We actually played them both last year. Before last year we hadn’t played them much. Last year we had Donegal and Tyrone, and then we played Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final. So they know a good bit about us, but we know just as much about them.
“Both games were very tight,” she added. “We beat them both by three points, so they’ll be good games. We’ll all be gunning, everyone’s going to be so excited to get back out.”
Since returning from Australia in April — where she and her sister Grace were members of West Coast Eagles' first-ever women’s WAFL team — the Moy Davitts star has returned to training recently with her club team-mates.
“We’ve had three training sessions and it’s actually lovely to be back with the club, be fully focused on that, and then pick up with the county afterwards. It’s nice to see the girls
again and get back to a bit of normality.
“We’re not back [with Mayo] until the club is over, so the club is hoping to finish up around September 20, so then we can go back training with the county for a month before the matches. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Mayo girls, I haven’t seen them since I came home from Australia.”
While Mayo have yet to resume collective training, Peter Leahy’s charges have been holding Zoom meetings as well as doing individual running sessions.
“We know that we can’t train collectively so we kept the communication up in the Whatsapp to make sure girls are still doing bits on their own,” explained Niamh. “We’re lucky to have these Garmin watches that allow Peter to see all the stats of what we’re doing so he’ll know whether we’re doing our training or not.”
Grace Kelly — who sustained knee ligament damage in her final WAFL club game of the season in Australia earlier this year — is currently on the mend and is hoping to see some action this year.
“She’s cycling away every day and she’s trying to build strength back, so hopefully she’ll see a bit of football this year,” explained her sister, Niamh, who added that she couldn’t shed much light on the current situation regarding the Mayo LGFA Board who are currently without an executive.
“I actually don’t know a whole pile about what’s going on, I’m just concentrating on football at the moment,” she said.