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‘I struggled with lows after All-Ireland victory, it’s why doubles are so hard’ – Shauna Ennis

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Shauna Ennis of Meath at Croke Park. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Shauna Ennis of Meath at Croke Park. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Shauna Ennis

Shauna Ennis

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Shauna Ennis of Meath at Croke Park. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

“The low you experience after winning an All-Ireland is not something you hear a lot about,” explains Meath defender Shauna Ennis and in doing so, opens the door on an under-appreciated, somewhat surprising, consequence of their glory last year.

You come off that high and you go quite low. I found myself going very low afterwards.”

All those banquets, the awards nights, the dinner dates.

If Meath’s ascent to All-Ireland champions was meteoric, the celebrations took them higher again before a sharp sudden plunge, like a firework fizzling out in the night sky.

“I think a lot of us did struggle with it, from a mental side of things,” Ennis freely admits now, on the eve of another final.

“Coming back as All-Ireland champions, it’s a very, very different place.

“There’s a reason a lot of teams don’t do double All-Irelands. It’s very hard to psyche yourself up again.”

Another thing.

Ennis, a primary school teacher, had put down the previous decade of her life as a Meath footballer mostly undetected.

Without considering it too deeply, that’s how she assumed her existence as an inter-county player would play out.

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“Now,” she explains, “anyone you meet, all they want to talk about is the All-Ireland. All they want to talk about is Meath ladies. And a few years ago, when we were in maybe one of our first All-Ireland intermediate (finals), no one would have batted an eyelid at us.

“No one would have taken a blind bit of notice. Now, all of a sudden, everyone knows you. People are waving at you and you have no idea who any of these people are!

“So I think that was probably something some of us would have struggled with as well. This new attention that we’re all getting.”

And yet, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The live TG4 coverage, the influx of sponsorship, the aggressive marketing, the huge All-Ireland final crowds.

Ladies football has undergone exponential growth as one dynasty bowed to another and Dublin assumed the role of the sport’s foremost force.

But no sporting story is quite so compelling as the fairytale.

And when Meath granted onto the LGFA their own Cinderella story last September, the attention that followed was as inevitable as it was unprecedented.

“I had people coming up to me last year after the final saying, ‘I had never been at a ladies game before. I went to the All-Ireland and I’m not going to miss one of your games next year.’”

They are icons for a new generation of Meath Gaelic football supporter.

Quite probably, given the breakthrough experienced this season by the likes of Donegal and tomorrow’s opponents, Kerry, they are a force of inspiration to their own peers.

The easier thing to do might have been to bask, but Meath have rolled up their sleeves and gritted their teeth to get past Galway and Donegal and make it back to the place and the occasion where dreams are made.

If it’s not quite routine now, they are at least accustomed enough to finals to appreciate and expect the novelty.

“There’s no point pretending it’s not a big day because it is a big day,” Ennis stresses.

“Even going up last year, seeing all the cars and the Meath supporters on their way to Croke Park, you didn’t just turn your head away from the window and put your earphones in and pretend they weren’t there.

“You have to embrace it. And you know it’s a big occasion. You just hope you’ve done the work and you’ve done the training and that big performance is going to come out of you on the day.”


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