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'We went into the dressing room and said that some greater power had been the cause of that'

A late, late goal was the difference when Dublin and Mayo met in the 2003 All-Ireland senior ladies final.

SUNDAY WON’T BE the first time that Dublin and Mayo face off in the All-Ireland senior ladies football final.

Clare Egan and Sinead Ahern Sinéad Aherne, now the Dublin captain, in action in that decider in 2003. Source: INPHO

The last meeting of the sides in the last two came in 2003 and on that occasion, Mayo just about edged it. Interestingly, it’s also the last time the Brendan Martin Cup has spent the winter months in the Western county.

An extremely low-scoring affair was settled by a late, late Diane O’Hora goal as the Westerner’s retained their title.

Cora Staunton dropped a last-minute long range free-kick into the square to set up the crucial goal which saw her side to glory. The game finished 1-4 to 0-5.

There’s plenty of links between that clash 14 years ago, and this year’s edition, with several familiar faces appearing as you look through the archives.

Mick Bohan — who’s back in the driving seat at Dublin — was in charge that day in Croke Park, while a fresh-faced Sinéad Aherne took to the field as a second-half substitute.

“I remember Cora’s last free,” Bohan tells The42, when asked for his long-standing memory of the day.

“It was probably 60 meteres out from goal, she probably stole a few yards. The ball ended up in the square and Diane O’Hora put it in the net. I think there were thirty seconds left on the clock.

“I always remember there was a girl involved with them, one of the McGings, who was killed in a car accident three months prior to that.”

Diane O'Hora celebrates Mayo's 2003 hero Diane O'Hora. Source: INPHO

The Mayo player he’s referring to is 18-year-old Aisling McGing from Killawalla, Westport.

She died that July after the car she was a passenger in was involved in a collision on route to a match in Castlebar. From the Carnacon club, her sisters Michelle and Sharon both went on to don the green and red jersey in the final, and honour the Aisling’s memory with an emotional win.

“We went into the dressing room and said that some greater power had been the cause of that and we could take it,” Bohan continues.

“That’s what I felt. I didn’t think that we were going to be beaten. The group we had were an incredible group, and that moment was just one of those moments of madness on the football field.

“I don’t think if you played them ten times, that that moment would have happened again.”

Now the captain of Bohan’s 2017 All-Ireland finalists, Sinéad Aherne casts her mind back to that day at the Dublin ladies media night ahead of Sunday’s showdown.

She had just turned 17 at the time, and it was her first year involved with the inter-county set-up. Kathleen Colreaevy, who’s involved with the present-day management team, was working in the St Sylvester’s sharpshooter’s secondary school and she helped the teenager in the door.

“I think she might have maybe passed my name on somewhere along the way,” she smiles. “Mick came out to a club game and it went from there.

“I came in over summer and just quietly went about my business, and found myself coming on in an All-Ireland final. It was a great first year and a taste of things that made me want to come back for more.”

Mick Bohan with Dublin Ladies football team 5/10/2003 Mick Bohan and the Dublin team before throw-in. Source: INPHO

She was sprung from the bench and managed to split the posts to level matters as the clock ran down, something she didn’t mention when asked of her standout memory of the occasion.

“It was a pretty dirty day from what I remember, a low-scoring affair,” she recalls.

“For me, being my first year in, I remember the physicality of it. Stepping up to senior level, it was a massive jump up.

“I wouldn’t be the biggest anyway, but I certainly wasn’t then. The jersey was probably hanging off me that day anyway!

“The physical nature of it, and the fierce competitiveness, it felt like a cauldron going into it. The goal was an unfortunate way to lose a final.

“On the day I think the best team wins it, if you come out on the wrong side of the scoreline unfortunately you haven’t performed to get over the line.”

Enough about the past. All eyes on Sunday.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s not pretty as long as you come out on the right side of it,” she concludes.

“That wasn’t the case for us that day. It’s unfortunate that that’s been the case too many times for us. We very much are focused on this game, and this day.”

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‘I’ve been watching from the sidelines for the past two years, wishing I was out there’

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