Thursday 14 December 2017

'It was just too hard for me to play, I had to take a step back'

Sinéad Finnegan raring to play after family tragedy forced her to miss Dubs' last triumph

Dublin's Sinead Finnegan Picture: Sportsfile
Dublin's Sinead Finnegan Picture: Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

Six years ago, Sinéad Finnegan watched with tears in her eyes as Dublin claimed a very first TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football championship triumph.

If things were different, she could have been out there but Finnegan had taken a break from elite-level football for a couple of years to process the sudden death of her father, Jarlath, from a heart attack in May 2007.

Finnegan did win an Aisling McGing senior B All-Ireland title in 2010, but stepping away from the senior grade for a spell was something she had to do for herself.

Jarlath was the man who first introduced Sinéad to football when she was just six years old.

A talented player, Jarlath represented Dublin in the U-16, U-17, minor and U-21 grades, suffering a huge bereavement himself when his own father, aged 50 at the time, passed away.

Throughout his life, Jarlath was devoted to Raheny GAA club, helping to oversee the development of future stars in the juvenile ranks.

His daughter Catherine played camogie for Raheny and football for Fingallians.

Sinéad, too, would link up with Fingallians and Jarlath would later become manager of the club's senior team.

Sinéad says: "He was so proud of me playing for Dublin, he absolutely loved it, he was GAA mad. It was just too hard for me to play (after he died), so I took a step back and came back again later."

Finnegan returned to the Dublin senior set-up in 2011 and this time of year always brings back fond memories for a player who made her senior debut against Kerry in 2007.

She adds: "Coming into the All-Ireland final is always a time where I think about him a lot and absolutely, he's looking down and beaming with pride.

"He'd bring us off to the GAA club in Raheny on a Saturday and we might not come home until that night and be in trouble with my mam!

"For the last two years, I went to visit his grave before the match. I'll probably do that again."

For Finnegan and Dublin, it's a third successive All-Ireland final appearance against Cork, chasing six-in-a-row at Croke Park tomorrow.

She celebrated her 29th birthday this week and there's been plenty of excitement too in the offices of PSG Communications, where Sinéad works in sports PR and sponsorship.

And the centre-back smiles: "It's kind of funny, for the last two years I've been organising balloons and little bits and pieces for our match.

"My boss, Mick O'Keeffe, is a big Dublin supporter and played for Dublin himself.

"I came in last year one of the days before the game and they had decked out my seat and the whole sponsorship area with blue bunting and balloons and had T-shirts made with my face on them, like Che Guevara!"

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