Darker days still drive Aherne
By John Harrington
Such has been the success of this Dublin Ladies Football team over the course of the past four years, it’s easy to forget they haven’t always had it their own way.
In fact, not so long ago they had a reputation for not just losing big matches, but losing them in pretty heart-breaking fashion.
Sinead Aherne certainly remembers those days, which is why her natural humility will never be corroded by the success she’s enjoyed in the latter years of her career.
“I was trying to do a quick tot there, I think I’ve actually lost seven (All-Ireland) finals which isn’t so good,” says the St. Sylvester’s woman.
“I suppose we had a lot of days where we made it to Croke Park, a lot of days where we didn’t make it to Croke Park as well, we were beaten narrowly in quarter-finals.
“Look, I think it’s probably been spoken about more in terms of the three defeats we had before turning it around but there is that winning experience that you can put under your belt, it does breed confidence in what you’re doing but look, absolutely, I’ve been in the exact same position it’s definitely something that at times you can reach into the memory bank for and it gets into the DNA of a team.
“I think both the successes and the failures have shaped this team. They’re not slow…they don’t have some of the weight of past defeats but I think some of us probably manage to shake those off after a few years and are riding the crest of having had some success.”
Aherne made her senior Dublin debut back in 2003 and is now 35 years of age, but the passing of time has done little to dull her edge.
She’s evolved as a player over the course of her career and remains one of the elite finishers in the country.
“It’s constant learning, that’s the exciting thing,” she says. “It changes year to year. You think about the game differently. Players coming in, to integrate them into the set-up.
“Gel it all together. Find a new edge. Coming up against a team we haven’t played before – how can we approach this? How can we get the best out of yourself and the players?
“You may don’t have the same level of speed you might have had in your 20s. Probably just the adaptability, being able to play with the players around you. Learn their styles.
“You might not be the first to be off the shoulder but if you can find yourself in space, in a gap. Being able to read the play is an aspect of the game you keep developing.
“Where you can slot into the system maybe becomes more important as you get older.”
Probably because she’s lost more All-Ireland Finals than she’s won, there’s no danger of Aherne suffering from any complacency ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland Final against Meath.
Five-in-a-row seeking Dublin are the hottest of hot favourites, but Aherne is wary of the challenge posed by the underdogs.
“They've come through some really tough matches,” she says. “They took out Cork in the last match, Armagh in the previous one who were semi-finalists last year.
“To say we're favourites, I suppose we have the experience of being in senior finals but Meath have plenty of experience themselves in terms of being in Croke Park winning Division 2 this year and three intermediate finals on the bounce.
“I know they'll probably have taken a lot of confidence from that and we'll absolutely be paying them full respect.
“We're really looking forward to the challenge, I suppose. We haven't played them in years so there's a nice freshness to it for us to be playing a team we haven't met competitively for a while.
“As I said, we've been impressed by what we've seen and we're looking forward to coming up against them now.”