Masterson hopes Dubs can follow Rebels' lead
IF you think life has been tough for the Dublin footballers recently, their heartbreak is nothing compared to that of their female counterparts.
Brilliant players like Stephen Cluxton's sister Avril, Cliodhna O'Connor, Denise Masterson, Mary Nevin, Sinead Aherne and the two Lyndseys -- Davey and Peat -- have put the Jackies to the forefront of women's Gaelic football by repeatedly reaching All-Ireland senior finals this decade.
Yet despite contesting deciders in 2003, '04 and '09, the Brendan Martin Cup has still eluded them.
Last year's one-point loss to Cork -- when they led the all-conquering Rebelettes by two points with less than 10 minutes to go but failed to twist the knife -- was undoubtedly their most painful final loss yet.
Yet midfield captain Masterson says their players never lost faith or contemplated walking away.
"There was never any talk of people not coming back," stresses the Naomh Mearnog star ahead of her third final on Sunday.
"The heartbreak was there alright but people came back, were ready to go again and I think that shows how much people want it, that they felt their job wasn't finished."
If anything, Dublin's ladies are now the equivalent of Cork's senior men: repeat finalists back knocking at the door again.
Strengthened by the return of Gemma Fay and the addition of players like Rachel Ruddy and Orla Egan, can they take heart after watching the Rebels finally making the breakthrough last weekend?
As someone who teaches maths and German in a girls' secondary school (St Michael's) in Finglas, Masterson knows the law of averages doesn't apply to sports.
"No way!" she protests. "Just because we're back there doesn't mean anything in a final. With 10 minutes to go last year we were two points clear, but we're now well aware that, on the day, that doesn't matter. There's no patterns or anything like that in finals; it's down to whoever puts the ball over the bar.
"In those last minutes Cork stood up and used their experience," she notes. "They were more composed on the ball and in their decision-making than we were.
"They also had players who came off the bench and got two vital scores for them. They did what they had to do to win the game and hopefully we've learned not to make those mistakes again."
There are other parallels between the Dublin women and Cork men this season. Like Conor Counihan's team, Dublin haven't produced their best football yet.
They were relegated from Division 1 of the league and, despite winning their provincial title, had to come from behind to beat Laois in their All-Ireland semi-final to secure a clash with Tyrone in the decider.
"Tyrone actually beat us by a point in the league yet the last three teams in the championship -- ourselves, Tyrone and Kerry -- were in the bottom three in our league and ourselves and Kerry went down," Masterson explains.
Dublin used the league to try out new players and strengthen their bench and looked impressive when racking up 2-13 to trounce Laois in the Leinster final.
But when they met again in the All-Ireland semi-final, Dublin needed a late goal to scrape through.
"We knew when we got them again in the semi-final that it was going to be a different game," Masterson says. "Laois came out with a very good plan; it probably wasn't the nicest football to watch, but we were just happy we could dig out a result.
"We're back in the final again but know there's no hard and fast rules. After last year we felt we needed to find a little bit more, give that extra five or 10pc that might make a difference, and everyone has really put that in."