PLAY­ERS TO WATCH

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE -

AILEEN GIL­ROY (Mayo)

Mayo had strug­gled in re­cent years to find a con­sis­tent mid­field part­ner for the im­pe­ri­ous Fiona McHale. That prob­lem was solved by the re­turn to fit­ness for Aileen Gil­roy as she re­cov­ered from a knee in­jury. The for­mer Ir­ish soc­cer in­ter­na­tional moved to mid­field this sea­son and her im­pact was in­stant. The per­for­mance of Gil­roy and McHale was best il­lus­trated against the for­mi­da­ble Done­gal pair­ing of Karen Guthrie and Katie Her­ron who were forced to play sec­ond fid­dle as the en­ergy and com­mit­ment of the Mayo duo was too much for the Ul­ster cham­pi­ons. Gil­roy loves to run di­rectly at op­po­si­tion de­fences and can be a real goal threat.

YVONNE BYRNE (Mayo)

Goal­keeper has be­come a key po­si­tion in ladies foot­ball and, sim­i­lar to the men’s game, se­cur­ing pos­ses­sion from kick-outs is one of the most im­por­tant fac­tors in the win­ning and los­ing of matches. Mayo have one of the best in the busi­ness in Yvonne Byrne. The Bal­ly­hau­nis star has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence out­field hav­ing played in the for­wards for Mayo in the past. Byrne’s in­tel­li­gent and pre­cise pass­ing is a huge fac­tor for Mayo and she has a long kick to call on if the short kick­out is not work­ing. Byrne, All Star goal­keeper in 2013, is also a top shot-stop­per which may be vi­tal against this goal-hun­gry Dublin side.

NI­AMH COLLINS (Dublin)

An un­her­alded player in the Dublin ranks, yet Ni­amh Collins is ar­guably their most im­por­tant de­fender. Play­ing at cen­tre half­back she has pro­duced some won­der­ful per­for­mances. She is com­fort­able on the ball and loves to burst for­ward in pos­ses­sion; how­ever, she has played a more de­fen­sively dis­ci­plined game this sea­son and is a turnover ma­chine.

NICOLE OWENS (Dublin)

This is the sea­son that Nicole Owens has lived up to the hype that sur­rounded her as she came through Dublin’s un­der­age ranks. She is one of the most tal­ented play­ers on view to­day and her at­tack­ing per­for­mances — in­clud­ing four goals — from wing-for­ward have been a key fea­ture in Dublin’s suc­cess this sea­son. The switch from cor­ner- to wing­for­ward has helped Owens, who has more space to run at op­po­si­tion de­fences us­ing her ex­plo­sive pace to burst through tack­les. Her de­fen­sive du­ties are as im­por­tant as her at­tack­ing prow­ess and this year she has em­braced her duty to tackle back and turn over pos­ses­sion.

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