By Jackie Cahill at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe
MANAGER Frank Browne admits that Mayo have "buckets to work on" ahead of a crunch TG4 All-Ireland quarter-final with Ulster champions Donegal on August 19.
Almost five weeks after slumping to Galway in the Connacht final, a performance described by Browne as "an aberration," Mayo got their championship challenge back on track with a 21-point mauling of Kildare in Saturday's qualifier.
Mayo's inside trio of Sarah Rowe, Cora Staunton and Grace Kelly landed 3-17 between them - Staunton leading the way with 1-11.
Mayo were 1-8 to 0-5 clear at half-time, as Rowe netted in the second minute, but plucky Kildare gave them plenty to think about.
Ultimately, the Lilywhites were undone by the loss of captain Erica Burke to injury in the first half, while their leading player on the day, Róisín Byrne, was sin-binned in the second half.
Kildare opened the second half with three unanswered points to cut the gap back to three.
But they wouldn't score again from the 34th minute - and Mayo registered 2-12 without reply to record an emphatic win.
Kelly was credited with a 44th minute goal that appeared to go in off a Kildare defender, before Staunton found the net with three minutes of normal time remaining.
Mayo were beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists last year, following a classic encounter with Dublin, but they'll have to work hard to reach that stage again.
Donegal, with lethal inside forwards Geraldine McLaughlin and Yvonne McMonagle in brilliant form, are many people's dark horses to lift the Brendan Martin Cup in September.
Browne admitted: "Buckets to work on. If we give Donegal the space that we gave Kildare in the first half, we'll be three goals down in the first ten minutes, and it will be game over and ball burst.
"They (Kildare) came out for the second half with a pep in their step but suddenly, we kicked on and got a couple of scores.
"We were comfortable in the end and you could see the difference in terms of Division 1 and Division 2 or 3, in physicality and aggression. Our power in the end is what took it home for us."
Browne admitted that Byrne's yellow card - issued in the 37th-minute for a hand-trip - was a key moment.
In the ten minutes Byrne was off the pitch, Mayo went from four to eleven points up.
But Browne added: "I thought even at that stage, we were starting to come into the ascendancy, to put shape on what we were doing and starting to find our feet.
"Plus, it's been five weeks since our last game in anger, there was always going to be a little bit of rustiness but it's onwards and upwards from here."
Browne revealed that Mayo's players suffered in the aftermath of the Galway setback - when they were handed a ten-point spanking at Elvery's MacHale Park.
He said: "The first week or two were absolutely terrible.
"We were ferociously down in the dumps about it because we'd surrendered to Galway - and nobody likes doing that.
"But we went away and what we did was draw a line underneath it.
"It was an aberration and if you went analysing it, somebody in a white jacket would be strapping you up and sending you home.
"You just couldn't analyse it - we were so bad but we said we were going back to basics. We were going to work hard, train hard, get three or four key principles and that's what we tried to work on all the way through it."
It's Donegal next for Mayo, who still harbour genuine All-Ireland hopes.
And Browne, tongue firmly in cheek, said: "It will be a massive step-up, they're the team of the year. I don't know will it even be worth our while turning up in that one! Look, we'll go and get the dinner out if anyway, if nothing else."
The Wexford native added: "I saw in Mayo, people were doubting, no more than the men's footballers, their character.
"But you never doubt their character. Whatever else we do, we'll go down, fight and die with our boots on. We'll go and play Donegal, they'll be raging hot favourites, I suppose we'll have to go and have a look at it."
Meanwhile, Kildare's relegation back to the intermediate ranks if All-Ireland champions Cork beat Monaghan in Tullamore later today.