Thursday 23 May 2019

'They have hurt us a lot' - Dubs admit taking down Cork made two in-a-row victory especially sweet

Double delight: Captain Sinead Aherne. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Double delight: Captain Sinead Aherne. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile Sportsdesk

Once the smoke and ticker tape had cleared after this epic, bruising and record-breaking women's final, all the bluffing could finally stop.

Dublin had never, ever beaten Cork in a championship game before, not to mind suffering that horrific string of four narrow All-Ireland final defeats to them since 2009.

So to finally swing that Rebel monkey off their back only doubled their joy.

"After all the scars they've left here, why would we do that?" said manager Mick Bohan when he was told that Cork boss Ephie Fitzgerald had suggested afterwards that his side were disrespected by Dublin being made such hot favourites.

"We have the utmost respect for Cork and that's really what makes this prize today that little bit more special," Bohan stressed.

"To beat the standard bearers was really important for this group because it was always something that was going to be thrown back at them long after their boots were hung up - 'you couldn't beat that great Cork team'. The tradition they've built up in their own county and in women's football is huge."

Tigerish wing-back Sinead Goldrick concurred.

"I don't think I realised how much until the final whistle. You try to put that in the back of your head, but when that final whistle went, it really hit home that we had beaten Cork because they have hurt us a lot," she said.

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"We wanted to do two-in-a-row too. I don't think we would be happy with just the one. For years we chased that All-Ireland and we definitely didn't want to lose it."

"We didn't ignore it, I don't think you can," admitted Dublin captain Sinead Aherne.

"But we tried to put it into a frame that we were playing Cork and would just have to be at the peak of our game to beat them."

Beside them sat a beaming Carla Rowe, who controversially had a shot disallowed in the one-point defeat in 2016 because no scoreline technology was in use.

Yesterday Hawk-Eye was in action, but no-one in the record 50,141 crowd needed it to see the sheer brilliance of her two carbon-copy goals at vital stages; both dispatched like a sniper after losing defenders with her devastating dummies.

What was she thinking as she pulled the trigger?

"Just to calm down in front of goal, to have a relaxed head and take a step. I was actually on my left foot," she said with a grin of disbelief.

"The girls made it easy for me and I was one-on-one, that's all you can do for each other.

"This is something we've dreamed of, we're just so happy. I saw it (Hawk-Eye) used in the intermediate game which was great. The LGFA are just constantly pushing and going forward and the attendance today showed that. It's just amazing for us and our sport."

Taking the attendance over the 50,000 mark - almost 4,000 more than last year and over 15,000 more than two years ago - was another huge milestone for the women's finals, but, as Goldrick admitted, "that doesn't matter unless you win".

"Away from the lights we went on a journey together. Mick said 'in 10 years' time you might see them (team-mates) in a pub or on the street and you just have to give that look', because nobody outside of the team knows what we have been through and how much we push each other.

"Football is about people seeing the best, but behind the scenes things happen to players in their lives and everyone just pushes each other up.

"Today was a good display of football and that was important to us. You don't want to just win, you want to win so that 50,000 people have respect for the game and the skill, and hopefully we showed that," Goldrick added.

A new-look Cork side also won huge admiration for the way they closed down Dublin's running game and suffered what was the 11-time champions' first loss in a final.

That was little consolation for manager Ephie Fitzgerald.

"It's a horrible place to be. Maybe we didn't lead for any of the match, but you can't fault any of the players or management for their effort.

"I don't think anyone gave us any chance which, for people who trained so hard all year, was quite hurtful and a bit disrespectful beforehand.

"Eimear Scally had a chance that would have put us ahead that was kicked off the line. Maybe that was the little spurt we needed.

"But having said all of that, Dublin were very good on the day. We have to take our hats off and congratulate them."

Ciara O'Sullivan, who played a real captain's part in taking the fight to the Jackies, looked utterly devastated. And she could find no consolation, even when it was pointed out that getting back to a final with a new-look team was a sign of real progress for the Rebels.

"It's really, really hard when you're a player and everyone's talking about progress and development," she said.

"This is my 11th year playing. When you're training every night of the week you're not looking to progress for 2019. You're looking to be competitive and win in 2018 so, in that regard, we fell short.

"Obviously we'll regroup again in January and go again but, right now, we're not looking at progress. We're just bitterly disappointed and heartbroken tonight."

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