‘Not one to half-arse anything’ – 2017 All-Star and Aussie Rules ace opts out of Mayo set-up

THE MAYO LADIES footballers will be without Aussie Rules star and 2017 All-Star midfielder Aileen Gilroy for the 2021 season.

New manager Michael Moyles confirmed that the North Melbourne ace had opted out of the squad while on a call with the media this evening.

28-year-old Gilroy has excelled in the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] over the past two seasons and has been touted as “one of the most exciting Irish talents” over there.

A former underage soccer international with Ireland, the Killala native missed most of the 2019 ladies football season with a devastating cruciate injury, before announcing her comeback with a stellar debut season Down Under.

She returned to line out in the Green and Red’s midfield last autumn, but has decided against it this time around.

“Aileen hasn’t committed this year,” Moyles, who oversees his first competitive game at the helm as his side welcome Galway to MacHale Park in next Saturday’s Division 1 league opener.

“She can’t commit to what’s needed for inter-county, really — and with a short turnaround year. We’ve been onto Aileen over the course she was in Australia. We’ve had this discussion over numerous times, we gave her ample opportunity to think about it even when she got home from Ireland and she did.

“It was something she struggled with for the last couple of years so it was coming. She’s living in Wexford, she found it difficult coming back from Australia to commit. And that’s what you find all over the country in men’s and women’s, sometimes it doesn’t fit well for the year that’s in it, and it doesn’t this year with her.

“We tried to accommodate it as best as we can but she made a decision that she couldn’t commit and that’s just it. That’s one player, we have 200 other players that may be able to fill that gap in Mayo that we haven’t come across yet.”

“Myself and Aileen have been friends for a long time before football and I know she would have loved to do it but if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out,” Moyles added.

“Aileen’s not one to half-arse anything. The last year or two, she’s struggled with it so she needs to take a year to get things around her. And that’s fine, no problem.”

The other current Mayo players who lined out in the AFLW are on board for the season ahead — Niamh and Grace Kelly, and Sarah Rowe, though the latter two are currently injured. 

“Grace is carrying a small bit of a knock so we’re not sure about the Galway game,” former Mayo player and club All-Ireland winner Moyles noted. “It might be easing her into it. Niamh is fully back. Sarah has a shoulder issue that may rule her out of a few games, it’s being monitored all the time.”

The42 understands that Rowe is staying put in Australia to rehabilitate for now, so may be unavailable for a few weeks.

Rachel Kearns, meanwhile, plans to balance two codes for the coming months, having starred with Galway WFC in her first season back in the Women’s National League [WNL] of late. 

Kearns was named Player of the Month for her stunning exploits recently, and Moyles is pleased to facilitate her status as a dual Gaelic and soccer player.

Galway WFC forward Rachel Kearns with the SSE Airtricity WNL Player of the Month for April.

Source: Harry Murphy/SPORTSFILE

“Rachel had this set up Galway before we became her management team,” he explained.

“When we had the discussion, we didn’t know if football was going to happen or not with the GAA, but the soccer definitely was. Rachel wanted to give it a go and I didn’t see an issue with that, especially since she had talked to the Galway United manager before we had actually even come in.

“She’s played very well.  She’s been carrying an ankle injury the last week or two, unfortunately. But she’s fully committed to Mayo, she’s been at all our sessions so far and she’s doing her rehab with us, which we’re delighted with.

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“I’m delighted to see Rachel doing well because sometimes players need that outlet of going to something else and just enjoying playing football again, she definitely has that. She’s a very important player for us, and we’re delighted to have her on board.”

He’s also pleased to have the Carnacon contingent back involved, having previously said in media interviews that his tenure brings a “clean slate” after the mass player walkout in 2018.

In the first summer of his predecessor, Peter Leahy’s three-year term, 12 players — eight of those from Carnacon — exited the set-up, originally citing “player welfare issues” as the reason for their departure. A lengthy saga and ugly back-and-forth ensued, and no departed players represented Mayo under Leahy’s watch afterwards.

2016 All-Star midfielder and Carnacon great Fiona McHale, who was vice-captain at the time of the walkout, is one back on board, with all returning with the right attitude.

“To be fair to Fiona and the girls coming in, it took the girls coming in but it also took the girls that were there. There’s a lot of undercurrents going on there but everybody’s just focused on Mayo, which is brilliant. The transition has been fairly smooth.

“There’s been no great speeches or people coming in to make sure everything is alright, the girls have just focused on what they’re there for; that’s for Mayo and that’s for football. They’ve been brilliant; both girls that have come in and girls that have been there.

“We have leaders that have been there for the last three years that have carried the can, we have leaders coming in that want to help out. It’s just about Mayo, nothing else. There’s no personalities involved and we’re lucky enough to have those eight, nine, 10 great leaders there and we have young girls listening to those great leaders. It can only enhance Mayo ladies football.”

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