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Captaincy Sits Comfortably On The Shoulders Of Mayo's Niamh Kelly

Captaincy Sits Comfortably On The Shoulders Of Mayo's Niamh Kelly
By Aonghus Ó Maicín
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"Are you at home?"

Niamh Kelly wasn't home but it didn't look good. As a 23-year-old, and still a relatively young member of the panel, the manager requesting to call in is the harbinger of bad news.

As it transpired, portents were misplaced and Kelly has been granted the opportunity to captain her county in pursuit of the elusive Brendan Martin cup.

Still settling into the role, Kelly says:

I never dreamed that I would be captain at 23. It's a big step up. I suppose last year I was one of the younger players on the team. This year it's nice to be captain.

It's nice that everyone has taken on leadership roles. It is a great honour to be captain though. We've two vice-captains this year as well: Kathryn Sullivan and Sinéad Cafferty. So it's nice that everyone has taken on leadership roles this year. Everyone is expressing themselves.

We'll have a lot of game-time now up until [the Connacht final]. We've a lot of young girls in. We'll give them a chance to express themselves and get a bit of game-time as well. We'll have a lot of challenge games before then; the hard training is now starting.


Survival in Division One, Mayo's primary ambition for the spring according to Kelly, was achieved and the side can now look ahead to the Connacht final against Galway. The 2017 All-Ireland finalists haven't produced scintillating form over the past few months. Still, that doesn't mean there hasn't been plenty of evidence suggesting a big summer ahead.

Certainly, Sarah Rowe's return from playing professionally Down Under is a boost. And with the controversy of 2018 now resigned to the rear-view mirror, things are looking positive.

[Sarah Rowe] is flying fit and she’ll get a bit of game time now and she’ll be back flying for the Connacht final.

She’s been out there since October and it’s been all go for her, training hard and in the gym as well. She was saying that they’d have a lot of their running first and then after their running session, they’d have their gym session so she was wrecked.

She had a week in Dubai just before she came back to us because she needed that break in order for her to start back training with us again. Now her full focus is on the Connacht final with us.

But Galway are doing very well. It’s always a rivalry against Galway so we’ll be gunning for them and we’ll work hard for the next ten weeks to try and get a result.

As for Kelly on her ambitions of giving life in the Antipodes a shot:

It would depend on your circumstances at the time; it’s a huge opportunity to be able to play professional sport in a different country. It came at the right time for Sarah.

Sarah was saying that the Irish girls that did go out got on really well, so I think they are looking to bring over more Irish girls for the 2020 season.

For now, the sum of Kelly's travel plans involves weekly trips down to Moate and Mayo for training sessions. As the newly-qualified teacher is working in Sandymount, extreme commitment is required - as is the plight of the amateur GAA star - as she dedicates herself to the intercounty cause.

In the absence of taking up the opportunity to play in Australia, the cross-country trips are bearable. Especially since the captain isn't alone in travelling down the country from the capital.

It’s grand in that a lot of the squad are based up in Dublin.

Myself, my sister (Grace), Sinead Cafferty, Sarah Rowe, Roisin Flynn, Annie Duffy and Michelle Treacy are just some of the contingent in the capital.

We do our training in Dublin on Tuesday and then it’s down to Moate on Thursday - that’s halfway for everybody.

When we’re all making the same journey then that’s half the battle. We’re in it because we love it. It’s not really a chore.

Mayo footballer Lee Keegan joined Limerick hurler Aaron Gillane, Mayo ladies footballer Niamh Kelly and Kilkenny camogie player Anna Farrell in Croke Park to launch the 2019 John West National Féile and to announce that John West will renew its sponsorship of the National Féile for a further four years until 2022. 

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