Kellys the heroes for magnificent Mayo
The Mayo full-forward line had an hour to remember against Cavan as Peter Leahy's side put a week of upheaval behind them to get their TG4 ladies SFC Group 4 campaign off to a flying start in Clones.
In a game packed with classy scoring, Sarah Rowe and Niamh Kelly excelled, and five points from Kelly in the first half put Mayo on track. Grace Kelly found the net in each half in a stunning team performance from Mayo who clinched a 3-23 to 4-13 win.
Considering the turmoil that ravaged the Mayo camp with 12 players departing, the opening 30 minutes football at St Tiarnach's Park was a sight to behold. By half-time they scored 1-13, all of which came from play, although Donna English and Aisling Maguire goaled for Cavan in the first half to keep them in touch. Grace Kelly fired Mayo four points clear, before Cavan hit back when Aisling Sheridan and Catherine Dolan found the net, but Rowe found the net before Grace Kelly finished off the job.
In the other game in Clones, Cavan and Armagh finished in a 1-11 to 1-11 draw, and with Cork waiting in the wings in Group 2, the share of the spoils is of little benefit to either team.
This was a game that Armagh should have won though. They kicked ten wides in the first half and their 13th came with the last kick of the game, when Caroline O'Hanlon pulled a straightforward free wide of the posts.
Bláithín Mackin had launched a stunning comeback for Armagh with a goal eight minutes from time, but they will have to stew on this missed chance with Monaghan set to face Cork next weekend in Birr.
Meanwhile, Kerry got their campaign off to a winning start when captain Sarah Houlihan scored 2-3 as they beat Tipperary 3-13 to 2-10 at MacDonagh Park in Nenagh.
Kerry lost their Munster final to Cork and ahead of their clash with Donegal it was vital they secured victory in Group 1. When they held a 2-9 to 1-3 lead at half-time they already looked well on their way.
Houlihan and Andrea Murphy had scored the first half goals for Kerry after Róisín Howard had pushed Tipperary into an early 1-3 to 0-4 advantage. But Kerry fought back and, led by Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Houlihan, they went into half-time with a commanding nine-point lead. Such was Kerry's dominance at the end of the first half that they scored 2-5 without reply from the 23rd minute and Tipperary were in massive trouble.
But despite not having the services of influential midfielder Jennifer Grant, Tipperary got back into the game and when Aishling Moloney scored a goal in the 39th minute, the deficit was back to 2-10 to 2-6. But Houlihan answered that with her second goal and Ní Mhuircheartaigh pointed Kerry to victory.
Westmeath's win in the second game at Nenagh was far less comfortable, and it required a 68th-minute winner from Leanne Slevin to register a 2-12 to 2-11 success over Waterford in Group 3.
Westmeath took a 1-6 to 1-4 lead into half-time after Laura Lee Walsh saw her goal cancelled out by Aileen Wall. Aoife Connolly netted early in the second half for Westmeath and they raced into a 2-8 to 1-4 advantage.
But Waterford scored 1-4 between the 39th and 51st minutes. Wall's second goal gave them a real chance. And the game came down to the dying minutes when Maria Delahunty scored her sixth point but Slevin's effort won it.
Sunday Indo Sport