Niamh Collins: 'The 20x20 movement is so important'
By Cian O'Connell
These are particularly interesting times for Ladies Football with attendance records being shredded and interest levels continuing to rise.
Dublin's role in this story shouldn't be underestimated because before all the current pleasure came some painful defeats.
Niamh Collins has suffered five All Ireland losses at club and county level, but is delighted to be occupying a leading role with Mick Bohan's innovative team.
"It’s an honour, especially in women’s sport it’s been brilliant to be up there winning when it’s taking off, especially with this 20x20 movement going forward and the brilliant attendance we had at the All-Ireland final it really is something special to be a part off and couldn’t be more exciting," Collins admits.
"The 20x20 movement is so important, people ask me when I was a kid did I look up to the Dublin men, yes, of course I did, but my memories as a kid wanting to play for Dublin came from the 2003 All-Ireland ladies final where Mayo beat Dublin in the final by a last minute goal and I was heartbroken.
"All I knew from that was I wanted to be playing for Dublin one day, you know here I am 15 years later playing for Dublin it affected me, so being there representing the supporters is very important for young girls because to use the tag line, you need to be able to see it before you do it, it’s really important."
How the Dublin Ladies interact openly with supporters and the media demonstrates what can be achieved. "We try to do as much as possible with the kids, we have open sessions that they are able to come along too, as part of a fundraiser for us we do training day where we would go and coach the kids and get to know them," Collins adds.
"You know there are groups of girls that come to all our matches and while the 50,000 is unbelievable and long may it continue, there’s a certain band of supporters that come from the second of February right up until September, so, you are doing it for those girls who absolutely love us and love the sport, so hopefully they will be stepping into the team one day."
That an increased number of fixtures are being played on high profile double bills is another significant boost. "The Croke Park games I think are really important and they’ve only materialised in the last three years," Collins says.
"They bring a different kind of energy to the league because the League can something be seen as a preamble to the Championship, but it is its own thing in itself it’s preparation for everything, it’s getting everyone back in together, preparing for the year and summer ahead.
"Having Croke Park games does bring a different energy to it, we as players are super excited about it, it’s a different kind of challenge.
"Last year in Castlebar we played before the Dublin Mayo men’s game and again that brings a different energy to it, and it is all good."