Monday 23 September 2019

Aherne wary of challenge posed by unfancied Tribe

Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne and Galway counterpart Tracey Leonard hold the Brendan Martin Cup ahead of tomorrow’s Ladies SFC final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne and Galway counterpart Tracey Leonard hold the Brendan Martin Cup ahead of tomorrow’s Ladies SFC final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

She describes their season to date as a "bit of a slow builder", which makes you wonder just how the Dublin ladies footballers will view their season once the job is finished. In Croke Park tomorrow, we should get an idea.

The champions have played five games ahead of the TG4 All-Ireland final against Galway and racked up an average winning margin just north of 15 points. But star forward Sinéad Aherne believes they're still a work in progress.

"We experimented a lot in the league and I think we've seen the fruits of that in the championship in terms of girls being able to step up," said the St Sylvester's player, who has hit 4-19 for Dublin in their summer campaign.

Now in her 15th season in blue, Aherne is an anomaly in Mick Bohan's side, an immovable object in a team that, for all the right reasons, has been in a constant state of flux.

"I saw a picture from the 2017 team and I think 14 are gone from that team. We've had a number of girls who've pushed in this year, both minors and girls that have come from the periphery. You need freshness, you need youth. You don't want it to become stale or predictable."

The champions have taken to the field in many different forms this year as injuries took a toll, but what has been constant is their apparent invincibility. With Nicole Owens the only missing link for tomorrow's decider - she re-injured knee ligaments in the semi-final - it's no surprise Dublin are 1-10 favourites to become just the third team in history to win three straight titles.

Aherne rejects the assertion that Dublin has already conquered its strongest opponent by beating Cork in the semi-final.

"No, I don't believe so. I think on All-Ireland final day, the two best teams have got there. Galway have had a really good year, a league final appearance which will stand to them. They've gone through the championship where they've really had to dig deep. They might be coming in a little bit under the radar which I'm sure suits them fine."

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Aherne hit 1-7 in last year's final but the 2018 Player of the Year has always been the antithesis of arrogance, the accountant admitting she'll be happy to be a bit-part player once Dublin win.

"There's so many different roles that go into a forward unit functioning well, it's just about trying to get the ball to the right person at the right time. If it's a one-point game and we win, we'll be happy with whoever picks up the scores."

She'll watch this evening as the Dublin men make their run at history, but Aherne will be nowhere near Croke Park until she's taking to the field herself tomorrow. "I wouldn't want to be spending too much mental energy getting emotionally involved with it. We obviously wish the lads the best of luck but we're number one in terms of what we're focusing on."

Just over 50,000 showed up for last year's ladies decider, and Aherne is hopeful headquarters will be rocking just as much tomorrow as it will be today. "It's fantastic for the city and a great opportunity to put the games side by side and take the profile higher."

She didn't get where she is by making assumptions, and if she is to etch her name even higher among the greats of the game, Aherne knows Galway must be treated with utmost respect - at least until the game starts.

"They'll be throwing everything at it, the same as us," she said. "We're looking forward to a huge challenge."

Irish Independent

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