Wednesday 25 April 2018

McGonigle: 'Ladies could do what men have done - there could be a blue wave'

Gregory McGonigle. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Gregory McGonigle. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Things have changed remarkably since Gregory McGonigle embarked on his coaching career nearly 20 years ago and he has plenty of time to reflect on football's evolution during his four-hour round trip from Lisburn in Antrim to Dublin ladies football training each week.

Over 170 sessions already this year between training, gym work, recovery sessions and video analysis have left him going through the toll every other day but he wouldn't have it any other way.

Despite believing that commitment to the county cause is now "24/7", the Derry native doesn't see the travelling as a sacrifice and admits the worst thing about winning or losing an All-Ireland is often the "void" of the winter months without collective training.

For those reasons alone, back-to-back All-Ireland final defeats in his two seasons in charge of the Jackies was never going to change his mind on returning for a third year to complete an "unfinished project".

"It was very simple," McGonigle said. "It's like Rory Gallagher asking for four years in Donegal, there's definitely a buzz, an excitement. I just couldn't see myself sitting watching tv every night of the week, I love football, I enjoy coaching and managing. And it was easy enough to come back.

"There's an unfinished project with Dublin and irrespective of if we win on Sunday as regards what my role would be after that, I would see that I'd definitely be involved in Dublin ladies football for the foreseeable future.

"I am enjoying it. I think they have a seriously progressive county board, there is a vision within Dublin. If Dublin can put that huge emphasis on underage structures I think the ladies could do possibly what Dublin men could do and there could be a blue wave."

In order for the banks to burst and the sky blue waves to flood ladies football they must break an unstoppable force, however, with Cork taking the game to an unprecedented level with ten All-Ireland wins out of the last 11.

To be the best, you've got to beat the best and McGonigle was "95pc certain" that if they were to make it back to Croke Park for Sunday's senior decider, there would be a familiar foe waiting for them.

Successive final defeats to the Rebelettes suggests a mental barrier will have to be overcome this Sunday and the former Monaghan boss has done everything possible to "declutter" his players' minds before another tilt at the Brendan Martin Cup.

"We believe we are good enough. If we can hit the performance levels of 2014 and bring that real grit that we have shown in the semi-final win over Mayo. I think it's going to take both sides of the animal, or the face, to beat Cork," the former Monaghan boss said.

"We know that even the simple things from the garda escort, getting the gear, the tickets for the family, this year has definitely been a lot smoother as regards we have appointed a small committee outside to look after stuff. We've tried to declutter as much as we could out of the players' head and leave it that their job is just to get a performance on Sunday."

After watching Tipperary deliver their best on hurling's biggest stage, McGonigle hopes Dublin can rock Croke Park and end Cork's monopoly on the ladies game.

"In one side you are in a performance bubble where this is just about getting the job done and then the second part is you nearly want to be like Bruce Springsteen, 'This is rock and roll guys, let's rock this stadium and give a performance that everybody goes home talking about ladies football'."

Irish Independent

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