By Pierce O’Reilly
Anne Kearney Final, Mayo vs. Cavan
Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Gaelic Park
The Mayo women have never won a championship or cup trophy. They’ve played five finals in the last two years and were defeated in them all. The Westerners know all about losing. They have sipped on the bitter cup of defeat more than most in the past and if ever they needed success and honor — they need it now.
"We’ve trained extremely hard for this game and we just can’t wait for it to arrive now," Mayo captain Louis McMahon said of Sunday’s Anne Kearney Cup Final, in which she and her teammates will take on arch-rivals Cavan in a 12:30 game at Gaelic Park.
"The girls won’t be afraid of Cavan on this occasion and after beating them earlier in the year, we know we’re as good as them."
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Mayo are confident, all right. They simply walloped the Ulster girls three weeks ago in an earlier round and then, almost as surprisingly, lost the plot last Sunday. Na Fianna stunned them.
"We simply got caught napping and Na Fianna deserved their victory," McMahon said. "I think it was the wake-up call we required. We’re a better team this year, we’re getting more scores from play and we’ve a knack of getting goals at vital stages."
Mayo may need a few goals on Sunday if they’re to topple the kingpins of the New York Ladies GAA for the last seven years. Cavan are building again from the back and the news that Olive Wilson is returning to the fray will bolster their confidence. They have also required a few nippy forwards who know where the posts are.
Nadine Doherty, an Ireland U-16 and U-18 international soccer player is one of the new deadly sextet.
"It should be a great game," she said. "We’ve won most of the past finals against Mayo so they’ll be all out to get one back. We’ll have to be at our best to retain our position."
Doherty wasn’t in action when the sides faced off against each other in the cup final last year, but she was in attendance.
"Hopefully, the bit of experience will stand to us on Sunday," she said. "A lot of the girls have played in the past seven finals and that’s a huge advantage. We’ve also lots of newcomers who are dying to impress."
Cavan will wait anxiously on the fitness test of all-star attacker Gillian Bennett. Bennett, who has been in Ireland for the last week, arrived back in New York at the weekend, if she’s fit to play, the Breffini girls will reorganize their attack.
"Gillian will be a huge addition if she’s fit," Doherty said. "She’s one of the best players in the game and we’re just hoping she’ll be alright."
Mayo will have to plan without instrumental midfielder Ellen McGreal, who was sent off last weekend against Na Fianna. However, Paddy Ward is confident that both Louise Fox and Joanne McKenna will be back to full fitness.
"We’ve nothing to lose," Ward said. "I’ll be telling the girls to go out and give it 100 percent and if they do that, I’m sure we’ll win this one."
Cavan, Anne Kearney cup winners in ’92, ’93, ’97, ’98 and 2000 have the tradition. If they get the breaks on Sunday they’ll be hard to beat. Mayo are young, eager and determined to get revenge. Their big day will come on Sunday. The only question now is, Will they remember their lines?