Mayo ladies football manager Peter Leahy is planning for the new season without all of the 12 players who left the county panel last summer and has called for his team to be given time to develop.
Leahy led Mayo to last year’s Lidl Division 1 final, but defeat to Dublin in the decider was followed by a Connacht final loss to Galway. However, their year was marred by much controversy in the squad before their championship was ended by Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Eight players from county champions Carnacon as well as four other players and two mentors left the Mayo squad ten days before their All-Ireland championship clash with Cavan in June.
The fallout rumbled on all summer, and eventually led to the Mayo County Board attempting to throw Carnacon out of the club championship, only for that ban to be overturned and the club then went on to claim their 19th county title in a row.
As a result of the falling out players from the dominant club in the county will not form part of Leahy’s inter-county panel in 2019, as he starts his preparation for the national league, which begins against Tipperary on Sunday 3 February.
"None of the girls who left are back or have requested to come back," said Leahy, who is entering his second year in charge of the county.
"Everyone who has wanted to play for Mayo, and are good enough, and can give the commitment, have been with us in pre-season.
"It's a new time for Mayo ladies and will need some time to develop"
"We started with 50 players from 15 different clubs and we will cut the panel to 35 in the coming weeks. It's a new time for Mayo ladies and will need some time to develop."
Despite the ructions in the camp in 2018, Mayo still registered some fine performances in the summer, most notably their 3-23 to 4-13 victory against Cavan in Clones in the immediate aftermath of the walk-out.
Central to that performance and Mayo’s league form was Sarah Rowe, but the talented attacker will miss all of the national league as she launches her Australian Rules career with Collingwood, AFLW rivals of Cora Staunton’s GWS Giants.
Staunton was one of the eight Carnacon players to leave the squad, but after her first season playing in Australia she returned in time to start the Connacht final loss to Galway – her 22nd consecutive year playing for the county.
Rowe recently said in an interview with Players Voice Australia that she intends to do similar, and be back in time to feature for the county this summer.
"I’ve taken an (Australian Rules) ball back to Ballina for Christmas. I’ve got gym and running programs and I’ll be working hard. I’ll also catch up with my Mayo team because, when I finish my season with Collingwood, I plan to go back and play GAA," said Rowe.
"I look forward to that. I didn’t get here on my own — my teammates and management back home have been so supportive. I really appreciate it. ‘You can go for six months’, they’ve said. ‘But you have to come home again!’"