Mayo ladies walk out over 'player welfare'
Mayo's ladies footballers have been rocked by a mass exodus of key personnel - including 11-time All-Star Cora Staunton - due to "personal and sensitive player welfare issues" ahead of Saturday's crucial All-Ireland qualifier clash with Cavan.
Last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists have lost ten players - led by captain Sarah Tierney and vice skipper Fiona McHale - while Michael McHale (Fiona's father) has also sensationally withdrawn his services from Peter Leahy's backroom team.
The bulk of those missing from Leahy's squad are understood to be from reigning All-Ireland ladies club champions Carnacon and it means the Mayo boss will be left with a skeleton squad for Saturday's Clones tie (live on TG4 at 2.15).
Westmeath native Leahy is determined to lead his side into battle despite losing a host of influential figures, however, and he insists his sole focus remains on the Breffni fixture, after which he will address the situation.
"I am preparing for a championship match and as soon as that is over I will give you the facts. But for now I must concentrate on the players who are looking forward to their championship match against Cavan this Saturday," Leahy said yesterday.
Leahy, a selector/coach under Frank Browne in 2017, took the reins this season helping Mayo reach the Division 1 league final, where they were defeated by Dublin, while they also fell to Galway in last month's Connacht decider.
Staunton's much-publicised return following her successful stint with professional Aussie Rules side Great Western Sydney Giants was viewed as a huge boost as they sought to claim a first All-Ireland crown since 2003.
However, her departure could now signal the end of a glittering 23-year inter-county career on a sour note as she is set to return to Australia later this year having already signed a contract for another season Down Under.
The ten absentees didn't train with the rest of the squad last Thursday while Leahy's squad did not meet over the weekend due to club championship games. Mayo trained last night and it is understood that new faces will be called into the fold to ensure they can field a side at the weekend.
An LGFA spokesperson revealed that there has been no correspondence between the governing body and the Mayo ladies county board while the WGPA gave their full backing to those who have opted out of the Mayo squad.
"We are aware of the issues and are supporting all of the players. We recognise the physical and emotional commitment required to operate at the top level and respect the decision of all individual players regarding their playing experience," the WGPA said.