Aherne ensures Blue Sunday for 'redeemed' Dubs
DUBLIN football was "Alive-Alive-Oh" again last night after winning its first All-Ireland senior football title in 15 years and it was 'The Jackies' who finally obliged in marvellously convincing fashion.
Three times the Dublin women had gone to the well in the last eight years only to lose All-Ireland senior finals, most painfully by just a point to Cork a year ago. So there were tears of joy all round when the Jackies finally got their mitts on the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time.
Tyrone had knocked out five-in-a-row champions Cork en route, so to beat their talented side by 16-points in such a one-sided decider indicates that this breakthrough could be the start of a major revolution for the girls in blue. But "redemption" was undoubtedly yesterday's theme, especially for their players who had also lost back-to-back finals in 2003-'04 -- and for no one more than fabulous full-forward Sinead Aherne.
The St Sylvester's striker had missed a penalty in last year's final and had taken that loss hard -- yet she exorcised those demons by finishing yesterday's rout clutching the 'Player of the Match' award after racking up a phenomenal 2-7 (3fs).
"You can only imagine what she went through because she, in many ways, blamed herself last year," said Dublin boss Gerry McGill.
"Sinead pulled us out of the fire on more than one occasion but to score 2-7 today, that just shows the type of player and individual she is," he added.
The 24-year-old accountant could not hide her delight, even if she insisted on sharing the credit. "Redeemed, I suppose, is how we're all feeling," she admitted. "Missing a penalty last year was, personally, tough to take and that performance today was testament to all 32 on the panel.
"I'm delighted for all the Dublin teams I've been part of down the years, and for all the Dublin greats and management teams that have gone before us. It's been such a long journey and so many before have put in so much to get us here," Aherne said.
She was right to share out the kudos for yesterday's performance because it was built on selfless teamwork and high work-rate.
"Defeat (again) was simply not an option," McGill admitted and he could be proud of the virtually flawless manner of their execution.
They raced four points clear in the opening six minutes and once Amy McGuinness had goaled in the 17th minute, they never once took their foot off the pedal.
That six-point lead was extended to nine (2-8 to 0-5) by half-time after Aherne, set up by a great Sorcha Furlong pass, went low to beat the 'keeper in the 28th minute.
Once Dublin had rattled off 1-4 to 0-1 in the first 10 minutes of the second half -- Kelly setting up Aherne for her second goal -- they were 16 points clear and their historic first All-Ireland was never in doubt.
"Just beaten in every sector of the field, completely outplayed everywhere," said devastated Tyrone co-manager Niall Colton, who felt that big-day nerves had got to his first-time finalists.
"There's only so much you can tell the girls to try and block it out of their heads, we knew it was going to be a factor but we were completely outplayed everywhere," he admitted.
Tyrone weren't helped by losing full-forward star Sarah Connolly to a broken finger just nine minutes in but, in truth, their usually high-scoring forwards and strong midfield were simply never allowed to get into the game by Dublin's work-rate.
It was also thanks to some brilliant individual defending by Rachel Ruddy, Avril Cluxton and centre-back Furlong and the excellent kick-outs of goalkeeper Cliodhna O'Connor whom McGill accurately described as "a player who can almost put the ball on top of a €2 coin."
Ruddy and Furlong had big games in containing usual Tyrone standouts Joline Donnelly and Gemma Begley and, remarkably, just four of the Red Hand players scored.
But the Dublin defence, vitally, also had lots of help, as a sea of blue jerseys selflessly tracked up and down the pitch to swamp and harry, particularly the two Lyndseys -- Peat and Davey -- and Mary Nevin. They also helped the Dublin midfield of captain Denise Masterson and Niamh McEvoy to break a mountain of ball -- and constantly dominate their opponents' kickouts with huge dividends.
And whenever Aherne, Elaine Kelly and Amy McGuinness got chances, they took them, with the latter kicking over three marvellous long-range points (one free) in the second half.
"It took us a long time to get over last year but we made a decision we were never, ever going to feel like that again," revealed McGill and yesterday the Jackies finally got their historic reward.
Scorers -- Dublin: S Aherne 2-7 (3f), A McGuinness 1-3 (1f), E Kelly, L Davey 0-2 each, G Fay, L Peat 0-1 each. Tyrone: G Begley 0-4 (2f), J Donnelly 0-3 (1f), C Donnelly, N Murphy 0-1 each.
Dublin -- C O'Connor 8; R Ruddy 9, A Cluxton 9, M Kavanagh 8; S McGrath 8, S Furlong 9, G Fay 8; D Masterson (capt) 9, N McEvoy 8; M Nevin 8, A McGuinness 9, L Peat 8; L Davey 8, S Aherne 9.5, E Kelly 8. Subs: B Finlay 7 for Kelly (46), N Hyland for Nevin (52), N Healy 7 for McGuinness (57), N McEvoy (St Syls) for McEvoy (Parnells, 58), C Barrett for Fay (58).
Tyrone -- S Lynch 5; M Donnelly 5, M Kelly 4, S McLaughlin (capt) 5; L Donnelly 6, N Woods 5, E Teague 5; S Donnelly 5, S Quinn 5; C Donnelly 6, G Begley 6, A O'Kane 5; C McGahan 5, S Connolly (inj), J Donnelly 6. Subs: N Murphy 6 for S Connolly (inj, 9), R Rafferty 6 for Teague (h-t), O O'Neill 5 for McGahan (46), M Gallagher 5 for M Donnelly (46), C Scullion for O'Kane (57).
Ref -- K Delahunty (Tipperary)