Preview: All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Final - Dublin v Mayo
Sunday, September 24th
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC Final
DUBLIN v MAYO, Croke Park, 4pm - TG4
By John Harrington
Both Dublin and Mayo will be motivated by painful memories when they do battle in Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Final.
Dublin have lost the last three All-Ireland Finals, all of them to Cork in matches they could, and will perhaps feel themselves should have won.
Mayo haven’t contested a Final since losing to Cork in 2007, but have an axe to grind with Dublin having lost to them in heart-breaking circumstances in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final when a Sinead Aherne free won it for the Dubs with the last kick of the match.
Mayo manager Frank Browne doesn’t mind admitting the bitter memory of that match fuelled their fire when defeating Cork in this year’s semi-final.
“People were saying to me ‘Where did that performance come from?’”, says Browne.
“I was saying ‘If you were here 53 weeks ago, when Sinead slotted a free down in that corner, you’d know.’
“If we’d have went into the dressing room immediately after that and said ‘Girls, you can have a shot back at this on Monday night,’ we’d have jumped on the bus and we’d have been ready to go.
“We had to wait a year for a time to get that back and we’ve had to wait 10 years to get back here. That’s a huge thing driving us forward.
“It’s not that I want to use negative things to drive us forward. Yes, we want to heal all of that pain but we want to go out and we want to express ourselves.
“We want to win and we want to bring it back to Mayo, we want to give some of the older players the fitting send-off, or the fitting tribute that they deserve.”
Winning her fifth All-Ireland senior medal after a gap of 14 years to her last one would certainly be a fitting way for the great Cora Staunton to bring the curtain down on her career.
According to Edwin McGreal of the Mayo News, since making her championship debut in 1996 as a 14-year-old she has played an unbroken 66 championship matches in a row and scored a remarkable 59-476.
She is without doubt the greatest player in the history of Ladies Football and many fans of the game would like to see her go out on a high if this is indeed to be her last season.
The Dublin players won’t so sentimentally inclined. The raw hurt they’ve endured from losing the last three Finals narrowly means the only happy ending they care about is their own.
According to Dublin manager Mick Bohan, his players have been driven on by a savage hunger this year to make amends for those defeats and finally get over the line first in an All-Ireland Final.
“We met up with them first in November, they were after losing the All-Ireland final to Cork and a couple of them were involved in Fox-Cab (Foxrock-Cabinteely) and they had lost the All-Ireland Club Final,” said Bohan.
“Right from off, I can genuinely say this, from when new started training in December, their appetite was just incredible. They have been nothing but giving of their energy and their ideas.
“They have taken ownership of this thing themselves and ultimately, the last number of years were learning experiences. But this is a new group.
“I know a lot of the players are the same but when you come in with new systems and new challenges, new backroom team, new coaches, new everything. It is different. It is not the same.
“And for those players, it had to be that way. It couldn’t be the same. We haven’t got involved with the baggage of the past.
“We have looked to the future and there has been incredible energy out of the group over the summer and it is certainly a group you enjoy being around and look, here we are, a couple of days out from an All-Ireland final and we would just love to see them go out and play.”
Three of the last four All-Ireland Ladies Football Finals have been decided by a single-point winning margin, with the exception being a two-point winning margin.
There’s every reason to expect that Sunday’s Final will be similarly close-fought, because both teams have tenacious defences, athletic midfields, and attacks inspired by gifted forwards in the shape of Staunton and Aherne.
“I think this game is up for grabs between the two best teams, the two best teams of the summer have come through,” says Bohan.
“We certainly weren’t surprised Mayo beat Cork, we watched them against Donegal, they were very impressive. Strong, physical, mobile. They compete for a lot of the dirty stuff, so this one is wide open.”
DUBLIN: Ciara Trant; Martha Byrne, Sinéad Finnegan, Rachel Ruddy; Sinéad Goldrick, Niamh Collins, Leah Caffrey; Lauren Magee, Olwen Carey; Carla Rowe, Lyndsey Davey, Nicole Owens; Sinéad Aherne, Niamh McEvoy, Noelle Healy.
MAYO: Yvonne Byrne; Orla Conlon, Sarah Tierney (captain), Martha Carter; Rachel Kearns, Marie Corbett, Fiona Doherty; Aileen Gilroy, Fiona McHale; Doireann Hughes, Niamh Kelly, Ciara Whyte; Sarah Rowe, Cora Staunton, Grace Kelly.