Galway’s Tracey Leonard – ‘There was a bit of calling out involved’

#FollowOurJourney: The journey to Croke Park for the participating contenders in the 2019 TG4 Ladies Football Championships begins on Saturday, 13 July. Connacht Champions Galway are up against Kerry. Pictured are Amanda Brosnan of Kerry and Tracey Leonard of Galway with the Brendan Martin Cup at the launch at Croke Park in Dublin. #ProperFan. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Galway captain Tracey Leonard has cited the airing of some home truths in a team meeting as the catalyst for their replayed TG4 Connacht Senior Championship final victory over Mayo – and the foundation for the rest of their summer.

Galway play their first TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship group game tomorrow (SATURDAY), with Kerry providing the opposition in the Group 3 tussle, which takes place at O’Moore Park Portlaoise. The game will be shown live on TG4 from 1.45pm.

Leinster finalists Westmeath provide the other opposition in the pool, but a week on from their Connacht final win, Leonard is happy that Galway are back on the right track.

“Two weeks ago when we played Mayo, and that was definitely a ‘welcome to championship’ game for us. We sat down the day after and we had to decide where we were going to go from there,” said Leonard, who has already scored 2-9 for her team this summer.

“There was a bit of calling out involved. I know it might not be in some girls’ nature in the camp to call their teammates out, but sometimes it has to be done. Time is ticking, every year (you don’t win) is another year gone and you have to start calling people out.

“We did that and no one took it to heart, but there was a few aspects of our game that needed changing to get over Mayo.

“But we’re happy out now, it’s great to win a Connacht title any day. Mayo are an up-and-coming team and it’s great to get over them.”

With the second placed team from Group 3 set to face the winners from a pool featuring Dublin, Monaghan and Waterford, all of Galway’s rivals will be keen to claim top spot to avoid a likely clash with the defending champions, which piles the pressure on straight away.

Leonard says she has always been impressed with Kerry’s footballing ethos and that she expects a huge challenge from Donal O’Doherty’s side.

“Kerry in my opinion have always been a fabulous side. They’re a very physically strong side and it’ll be no different on Saturday.

“Kerry in any grade are a real footballing side. We’ll have to have our bit of homework done on them. Hopefully we can put a game together that will get us over the line.

“I know they went down to Division 2 last year and I’m sure that was hard for them. We’ll approach them like any other team because we know it’s going to be a real battle with them.”

Now in her ninth year as an inter-county player it seems incomprehensible that Leonard has yet to grace Croke Park. None of her teammates have played there either, with Galway’s last game in Jones’s Road being the 2004 All-Ireland final win against Dublin.

Looking out at the stadium as it was transformed back to a GAA arena following the Westlife concert last weekend, and speaking at the TG4 championship launch, Leonard admitted reaching the last four was a real aim.

“I’ve never played here in Croke Park. That’s massive for the game to have the semi-finals here.

“We got to a semi-final last year and have done it a few times, and the group of girls with Galway at the minute I’d say none of them have played here. It’s great to hear that.

“It’s something to target for sure. The ultimate prize is an All-Ireland final, but to get to a semi-final in Croke Park that’d be amazing.

“But winning it [the All-Ireland] is a far away picture and we have our own tasks with Kerry and Westmeath. They’ll be two right battles to win before we look anywhere else.”

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