Monday 21 October 2019

Denise Masterson: 'Bizarre and surreal but champs won't care after making experience count'

 

Hannah O'Neill of Dublin scores her side's second goal. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Hannah O'Neill of Dublin scores her side's second goal. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Denise Masterson

While I'm absolutely delighted to see Dublin win their first three-in-a-row, that was one surreal All-Ireland final.

To get another record crowd again (56,114) was very positive but the spectacle definitely wasn't the best game of ladies football ever, that's for sure.

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You could call it a great tactical battle but not a great spectacle, and very disappointing considering these teams had two of the most potent forward lines all season. But Dublin won't care once they got the job done.

It'll probably just be remembered as one of the most low-scoring finals ever - apparently since Dublin beat Mayo by 1-4 to 0-5 in 2003. That was the year before I joined Dublin and Mick Bohan was in charge then too.

Yet I found it entertaining in its own way because of the match-ups and the quality of physical tackles and dispossessions in midfield.

It was definitely a day for defenders at both ends and credit to the respective back-lines and managements for getting those match-ups right.

Galway's Sinéad Burke was really impressive on Sinéad Aherne and Éabha Rutledge was equally good on Tracey Leonard.

The backs really stepped up to the plate and it took 22 minutes before anyone scored and then it was a centre-back (Sinéad Goldrick) who scored a goal for Dublin. Both sides had nervy starts but Galway actually started the more composed and they'll really rue their squandered chances in the first quarter, which was probably down to inexperience.

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Louise Ward did well for Galway in midfield and her sister Nicola, as I was hoping, really set her stall out to attack in the first 10 minutes but then faded back more defensively.

I'm not sure if that was because Carla Rowe, who she was marking, adjusted but it was a very good early tactical ploy by Tim Rabbitt and I'm surprised Galway didn't persist with it.

The half-time scoreline of 1-0 to 0-1 was just mad and the debate then was nearly more about 'studs or mouldies?' It wasn't that people were losing possession, their handling was quite good, but they were losing their footing.

I thought Dublin would make changes in attack because their forwards were very timid about taking on their markers. Even in the final attack before half-time they kept passing the shot to someone else to take.

Maybe conditions on the pitch were very bad or they didn't want to make a mistake but I thought they were trying to walk the ball in too close to goal when there were opportunities to score from further out which they'd normally take.

Noelle Healy, who didn't start the semi-final either, did the job again that she was sent in to do and Dublin re-started with a great point. It was no surprise that it came from Lyndsey Davey. Her tackle count and possessions were huge and she was phenomenal all day.

The sin-bin was definitely a turning point because not only did Galway not get a goal but they lost half-forward Mairéad Seoighe in the same incident - a huge double blow.

There was no malice in it but it was a yellow card and, not long after it, Dublin got the second goal, and once again Lyndsey Davey made the assist to Hannah O'Neill who put it away well. Once that happened I always felt Dublin were going to kick on.

That said it was still just three scores each for a long time but I always felt that Dublin could close it out because Galway's forwards just weren't creative enough.

I was a bit surprised that Niamh McEvoy came off. She made a super block-down in the first half and, while she had a few turnovers, she was very busy in the middle of the park which was where the battle was really happening.

The long ball in from Galway did cause a bit of confusion but Dublin had that covered and I thought Olwen Carey was fantastic sweeping up in the back-line.

Scoring aside, for Dublin to do a three-in-a-row is a huge thing and Lyndsey Davey for me, 15 years after losing an All-Ireland to Galway, was the real star. How amazing for someone like her to be involved after all those losses - and to finally get Player of the Match.

One of the big questions now is whether Mick Bohan stays on. What he puts into this team and the standard he's always trying to raise it to is unprecedented and he would be a huge loss if he left.

You might get some older players thinking about retirement but, up to yesterday, they played really great football this year. In women's worlds, priorities can be different as you get older, but there genuinely is no reason why anyone would leave.

Irish Independent

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