Dubs create history with stylish win
Dublin 3-15 Mayo 1-10
It was a day when Dublin gave manager Mick Bohan the performance some of their earlier games had lacked as the Jackies created history by delivering the county's first top-flight league title at a sunny Parnell Park on Sunday.
Dublin's 11-point victory was every bit as emphatic as their All-Ireland win over Mayo last September, with goals proving decisive for the Metropolitans.
They were driven by their captain - and St Sylvester's star - Sinead Aherne, who turned in an amazing first-half display which the Mayo defence had no answer for.
She kicked Dublin's first four scores, one off a penalty, which formed part of a 1-5 scoring run which had gone unanswered inside the first quarter.
By the end of the game, Aherne had taken her total for the game to 1-9 and Bohan didn't hold back his praise of Aherne afterwards.
'For Sinéad [Aherne] too, playing 15 years for Dublin and that's her first National League title - a spectacular day to give such a performance, to captain the team, and obviously to create history.'
It's been a decade dominated by Dublin's fiercest rivals Cork, but the the tide has turned somewhat in the last 12 months, with Dublin now holding the two main pieces of silverware.
Bohan was still taking in the magnitude of Dublin's victory after the game.
'It's hard to believe, isn't it, that that's Dublin's first National League title,' he said.
Nonetheless, Bohan was gracious in victory, believing that Dublin had to pull out all the stops to deny a Mayo side minus the services of the game's most celebrated player, Cora Staunton.
'The reality is, even though the scoreboard sometimes reflects an easy finish, they were in for two really good goal chances, took a couple of outstanding saves from Ciara Trant.
'Niamh Collins made a very important block. You get massive energy from a ball hitting the net, as opposed to it being blocked and turned away.'
As mentioned, Dublin had laid the foundations for victory in the first half when they raced into a 2-10 to 1-5 lead with a display that certainly impressed Bohan.
'Their ferocity in the tackle was outstanding, and the intensity in that first half was something that we hadn't seen from them during the National League, but they've learned to step up when needs be.'
Dublin would welcome back Sinead Finnegan for the first time this season and it was as if she never left as she turned in another busy display at centre back.
And Dublin were soon into their stride, kicking over two early points from Aherne (the first off a free) before a jersey pull on Aherne's clubmate Nicole Owens resulted in a penalty being awarded by Down referee Brendan Rice.
Aherne duly stepped up to deliver her shot into Rachel Kearns' right-hand corner.
With Aherne proving almost impossible to mark, Dublin continued to add to their lead, with midfielder Olwen Carey seeing a goal chance clear the top of the crossbar after a selfless offload from Aherne.
However, Mayo would eventually get into the game, with Niamh Collins somehow managing to keep a Mayo effort out of the net with an incredible goal-line clearance before Fiona Doherty finally opened Mayo's account with 15 minutes gone.
Shortly afterwards Dublin netminder Ciara Trant tipped a Sarah Rowe effort over the posts and the westerners were cursing their luck once more when Sinead Cafferty, having burst through the middle of the Dublin defence, could only find the side netting as she attempted to place a low effort into the keeper's far corner.
Having survived that storm, Dublin regrouped to move 10 points clear before Lauren McGinley (one of two changes to the Dublin's starting fifteen from the match-day programme) produced a double save out of the keeper with four minutes to go in the half.
McGinley would eventually find the back of the net with a cool finish a minute later, but Mayo were then handed a lifeline in the next attack of the game when they were awarded a penalty which Sarah Rowe converted.
There then followed a point at each end to leave it 2-10 to 1-5 at the break, but Mayo were dealt a hammer blow straight after the restart when 2017 Players' Player of the Year Noellle Healy stormed through the Mayo defence before driving an unstoppable shot past the keeper.
Mayo, to their credit, didn't lie down, with Trant producing another important save off Niamh Kelly with nine points between the sides at that stage.
It proved a timely intervention and things calmed down after that, with All-Ireland winners Carla Rowe and Sinead Goldrick brought off the bench as Dublin closed out the game with scores from Aherne.
But the biggest cheer of the day was saved for Owens who, fresh from her appearance on the Ray D'Arcy show on Saturday night to promote Pieta House's Darkness into light run next weekend, received a rousing send-off as she left the field following another terrific display in the Dublin jersey.
Dublin: Ciara Trant; Martha Byrne, Deirdre Murphy, Leah Caffrey; Siobhan McGrath, Sinead Finnegan, Niamh Collins; Lauren Magee, Olwen Carey 0-1; Nicole Owens 0-2, Niamh McEvoy 0-1, Lynsdey Davey 0-1; Lauren McGinley 1-0, Noelle Healy 1-1, Sinead Aherne 1-9(0-5f, 1-0 pen). Subs: Jennifer Dunne for McGinley half time, Carla Rowe for Davey 37, Katie Murray for McGrath 38, Sinead Goldirck for Carey 52, Hannah O'Neill for Owens 52.
Mayo: Rachel Kearns: Emma Lowther, Sarah Tierney (capt.), Niamh O'Malley; Marie Corbett, Danielle Caldwell, Doireann Hughes; Aileen Gilroy, Clodagh McManamon; Fiona McHale, Fiona Doherty 0-1, Sinead Cafferky 0-1; Niamh Kelly 0-1, Sarah Rowe 1-5 (1-0, pen, 0-2f), G Kelly 0-2, (0-2f). Subs: Orla Conlon for O'Malley 24 mins, Shauna Howley for Hughes 39 mins, Sarah Mulvihill for Caldwell 48 mins, Amy Dowling for Kelly 52 mins, T O'Connor for Doherty (55 mins)
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down).