Solid defending and second-half goals prove key to victory
DOWN past Edgeworthstown. The Jimmy Magee All-Stars once played there.
The Leitrim Centre of Excellence looked well. Declan Darcy is the player every Leitrim child wants to be.
Onward towards Carrick-on-Shannon, a boating haven. Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks added an extra ripple to the waters.
The Tidy Towns crew had been busy. They don’t call it Lovely Leitrim for nothing.
Larry Cunningham used to lace up the boots for the Jimmy Magee All-Stars. He would have liked to have played on the green velvet stage of Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada last Saturday.
The three flags were flying – Dublin, Donegal and the tricolour. The umpires were in their white shirts and ties.
And on a humid afternoon, the Dubs found much difficulty in getting past Donegal’s electric blanket.
At times, every Donegal player was behind their own 45. For the Dubs, it was akin to trying to find room in a confession box.
It was as if Donegal were saying to the Dubs, ‘you can keep on knocking, but you can’t come in’.
The supreme defending of the Ulster side formed the bedrock of their triumph. But they also possess a sharp edge in attack. And three second-half goals saw them advance to the semi-final of the TG4 All-Ireland senior championship, 3-7 to 1-7.
They brought a real drive to the hour. Flying fit. Their passing was excellent. Moving the ball at pace. Into welcoming sticky fingers.
Dublin needed a spark to start their day. It never came. They enjoyed plenty of possession, but there was just no way through the hills of Donegal.
It’s always a treat to see Geraldine McLaughlin. One of the best footballers in the game. She has that little dart of speed that really matters in tight areas. And she protects, and uses, the ball so well.
Yvonne Bonner is another leading performer for Maxi Curran’s team. And when Karen Guthrie came off the bench in the second half, Dublin’s mountain suddenly got taller.
Donegal led by four points to one at half-time. Bonner’s goal, midway into the second period, at the scoreboard end, was a telling moment.
She then set up Guthrie to stroke in Donegal’s second goal. Guthrie’s third goal added the cranberry sauce.
The Dubs kept trying. Carla Rowe squeezed in a goal, but at that stage the referee, Kevin Phelan, had already had a few glances at the Rolex.
FOR Dublin, the day was drenched in disappointment. Knocked out of the TG4 All-Ireland championship.
The standard-bearers of the modern era. There have been so many joyous days. And a trophy cabinet bursting with Leinster and All-Ireland silver, plus All-Star awards.
This season they were a team on a mission after the bitter pang of losing last year’s All-Ireland final.
Yet there were still little moments that underlined the value of sport. After the final whistle in Leitrim, Hannah Tyrrell was seen giving her time to chat to a young Dublin supporter.
And on the day of the Wimbledon ladies’ singles final, the centre-court words of Rudyard Kipling filled the air: ‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.”
Dublin ladies football chairman Joe Keane stood underneath the stand and reflected: “This is sport. You win some, you lose some. Today, it just didn’t go our way.
“But we are all so proud of this team. They have produced wonderful football under Mick Bohan. They are fantastic footballers. The way they play the game. Their attitude to the game. Their dedication.
“They are great ambassadors for ladies football, and for sport.
“They are such perfect role models. We wish Donegal well. We’ll re-group, and move on. We’ll be back.”
TOMORROW night, Dublin meet Cork in the All-Ireland U-16 ‘A’ championship final in Cahir, Tipperary (7.30).
Dublin defeated Roscommon in the semi-final, while Cork overcame Cavan to secure their spot.
The young Dubs have been in good form, winning the Leinster Championship with a splendid performance against Meath at Fingallians. Almost 20 clubs are represented in the panel.
The last time Dublin were in the All-Ireland U-16 final was 2016, when they lost to Kerry.
It was in 2010 that Dublin last won the All-Ireland U-16 crown, beating the Kingdom in the All-Ireland final at Banagher. Fintan O’Curry was the manager.
Three players on that squad were in the Dublin senior panel last Saturday against Donegal, Leah Caffrey, Siobhán Woods and Ciara Trant.
“Yes, it’s been a while since we have been in the U-16 All-Ireland final, so it’s a wonderful achievement by Fintan (Keeling) and his management team,” remarks county chairman Joe Keane.
“They have been playing marvellous football, and it’s great to be performing at this level and reaching an All-Ireland final.
“There are some excellent young footballers in the panel. And underage is so crucial if you want to keep bringing players through.
“This grade is a real starting point for so many young players. And it shows them how hard you have to work to make it as an inter-county footballer.”