Sinead Aherne expecting a tense Ladies Final
By Jackie Cahill
Croke Park is bracing itself for another titanic clash between Dublin and Mayo – and Sky Blue captain Sinéad Aherne admits that there’s “tension” in the air ahead of tomorrow’s TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football final.
Seven days on from the unforgettable showdown between the counties in the men’s clash, it’s ladies’ day at GAA HQ.
Dublin are in their fourth successive final – and anxious to avoid a fourth straight defeat.
Aherne, who took a year out in 2015, played in the 2014 and 2016 deciders against Cork – and knows the heartbreak of final defeat.
But she also knows what it’s like to win an All-Ireland medal, having starred on the team that comfortably accounted for Tyrone in 2010.
But Mayo are a different kettle of fish and when the counties last met in championship football, it was Aherne who shot the winner.
The 31-year-old forward was fouled by Mayo skipper Sarah Tierney in a pulsating Kingspan Breffni semi-final last year, and converted the winning free from an acute angle.
With Dublin manager Mick Bohan’s comments about Cora Staunton and her alleged intimidation of referees sure to stoke the flames ahead of tomorrow’s showpiece, Aherne knows what to expect from the Westerners.
The St Sylvesters star reflected: “Mayo are a physical team and there is probably that tension from how close our matches have been over the years, there has been nothing in it.
“I think we are quite familiar with each other, and Mayo having come through some very tough matches over the year, they will be coming in with a lot of confidence.”
Dublin have shot the lights out on their way to the final, hammering Laois and Westmeath in Leinster, before seeing off Waterford and Kerry comfortably in the All-Ireland series.
Mayo, in contrast, have had to bounce back from a Connacht final defeat against Galway to storm through the back door.
But Frank Browne’s charges have shown ominous form in their last two outings – accounting for a highly-rated Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final, before knocking out holders Cork.
Aherne is hoping that the feel-good factor in the capital will help to ensure that a big crowd is present – but she wasn’t present to witness Jim Gavin’s Dubs win three-in-a-row last Sunday.
She explained: “Just decided to take it easy.
“We had our own session in the morning and there is a lot of energy that goes in those games.
“For me, I would feel I’d be expending a lot of energy, particularly the way that the match went, it was such a tight one.
“It was nice, just to go to training and relax afterwards, as much as you can, when you are watching a nail-biter like that.”
But Aherne admits that she was heavily invested in the game, even as a TV spectator.
She said: “You couldn’t not be excited by it, and the lads came out again, on the right side of another tight tussle.”
And Aherne wants Dublin fans to flock to Croke Park again – as the county aims for a unique All-Ireland senior double.
She said: “It would be nice to see. We had a record crowd here last year, 35,000, so if we can get those numbers again.
“We had terrific support throughout the year and it would be great to see more numbers coming out.”
Dublin are aiming to exorcise the demons of final defeats to Cork in the past three years when they face off against the green and red.
Mick Bohan, Jim Gavin’s former sidekick, is now in charge of the team and Dublin look like a well-drilled and focused outfit.
The Jackies hit the ground running in the championship against Laois in June – crushing the O’Moore County by 28 points.
Aherne scored 3-4 on that occasion and she followed up with four points in the Leinster final victory over Westmeath, 1-9 in the Waterford win, and 2-7 last time out against Kerry.
It’s impressive shooting but Aherne believes there’s more to come from Dublin.
She said: “You never come out of a match fully satisfied with your performance.
“And I don’t think any of our performances this year have been completely top-notch.
“It is very much being lots of room of improvement.
“Mick has a very knowledgeable team with him when it comes to looking at different aspects of the game and it is about finding the margins that will get us over the line.”
Bohan was manager in 2003 when Dublin lost to Mayo in the final – and that was also a landmark day for Aherne.
She smiles: “It is a long time ago now, that was my first year into senior inter-county set-up and it was unreal for me.
“Mick has this incredible intensity and passion to him, that’s what I saw as 17-year-old coming in.
“This time around, he is still an intense guy but he is much more focused, he has obviously learned a huge amount along the way and taken that experience he would have got from so many set-ups into the Dublin ladies set-up. It is great for us to have that.”