Tuesday 22 January 2019

'I was like a woman possessed. I felt so uptight and found it very, very difficult to watch'

Sinéad Finnegan, left, and Sinéad Goldrick of Dublin celebrate victory over Dublin last year
Sinéad Finnegan, left, and Sinéad Goldrick of Dublin celebrate victory over Dublin last year

Niall Scully

SINÉAD FINNEGAN has just started her placement year at the Dominican Convent in Cabra. She was greeted by a friendly face on her first day – Seaghan Kearney, a teacher there, and part of Mick Bohan's Dublin backroom team.

Sinéad is teaching the first years. She'll be teaching business studies and Irish while she'll be studying at DCU for two years. It's a big change from her role in Public Relations.

"I love it," she says. "I was five years there and I really enjoyed my time at Teneo PSG. The guys were brilliant. I called in the other day to say hello. They'll all be at the final, cheering me on.

"I just wanted a change. I have always been passionate about Irish. And so often over the years, you hear people saying, ‘I wish I had paid more attention in Irish class at school'. It's a common regret for people.

"When you are in school, your love of Irish is determined by your teacher. I love Irish, so I would love to be able to help people love Irish as well."

Sinéad understands the inner workings of sport. She has often been at the coalface promoting a big game such as this Sunday's Ladies All-Ireland SFC final, the Dubs having reached the decider after beating Galway last month in the semi.

Raising the profile of an event is always the priority of the PR machine. And Ladies football has been getting its name in lights more than ever over the past few years.

"The sport has grown immensely in terms of support and everything else. And the game itself has also grown so much. It's a much faster game than it used to be," says Sinéad.

"Even last year, you'd notice the little things. Being recognised walking down the street.

"I think the documentary ‘Blues Sisters' played its part in that. I know the crowds at the National League and Championship matches are not huge, but there has been an increase compared to last year.

"If you looked at that alone, it would lead you to believe that there are more people going to the games," she adds.

"Ladies football is in a good place. There is a lot more room for improvement in terms of the coverage that it gets. But it really has grown in popularity.

"The Irish hockey team is an example. The whole country was captivated by them. Women in sport is a very topical discussion for the last number of weeks. And women's sport is going in the right direction."

This time last year, Sinéad didn't enjoy the pre-match build-up. Injury was her chief concern.

"Last year my All-Ireland final was more about would I be able to play rather than who we were playing," she reveals.

"We had a squad game on the Sunday. The same day as the men's All-Ireland Football final and, unfortunately, I tore my calf.

"I spent the week trying to rehab it and hoping it would get better. But on the Friday night before the final, it became apparent at training that I wouldn't be able to last the whole game."

"I felt fine in the game. And I remember saying to myself I could be okay here.

"But then Cora (Staunton) got on the ball. I jumped out to try and block her. And it was that jumping motion that started it off again."

It was 19 minutes through the first half. Dee Murphy came on to replace her. They both share the same birthday.

"As much as I was gutted for myself, I was chuffed for Dee because she had her own injury problems and she played an absolute stormer," says the magnanimous Finnegan, even though watching the rest of the game from the stand was not her idea of afternoon tea.

"I was like a woman possessed," she says. "I felt so uptight. I said to Rebecca McDonnell beside me that I think I might have to go inside. I am finding it very, very difficult to watch this."

And then there was a terrific conclusion as Dublin struck for a basket of quick scores to overcome Mayo.

Finnegan goes on: "We were about 13 points up and there were about three minutes left.

"Some of the people on the bench began to jump up getting ready to celebrate.

"And I was saying what are you doing. The match isn't over.

"And one of the players said, 'Finno, we know that Cora and Mayo are good but they are not that good to be able to come back from 13 points down in a couple of minutes'.

"But I was completely on edge. I really did find it difficult watching the game.

"My belief is that you can never stop until the game is over."

Especially in All-Ireland ladies senior finals when it's Dublin and Cork.

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