THE APPLE DOESN’T fall far from the tree.
In September, Lauren Magee and her Dublin teammates finally got over the line in the All-Ireland senior football final and put three years of agonising heartbreak and hurt to bed.
As Sinead Aherne climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Brendan Martin Cup, the sea of blue around Croke Park was in full flow. Johnny Magee, a former Sky Blue himself, watched on with pride as his daughter basked in the glory of finally reaching the Holy Grail .
“He’s a really big influence,” the 20-year-old smiles. “I think after the All-Ireland, it just showed.”
Like the rest of the panel, she was completely taken aback. In awe at what they had just achieved, finally banishing the pain of previous narrow losses to Cork on Gaelic Games’ biggest stage. There were tears, happy ones though.
Then there was her father.
“I was obviously emotional but Dad was roaring and crying. Dad would be a bit of a crier compared to my uncle… well, not a crier but he’d be emotional when it comes to us, all of my sisters.”
And nearby stood Darren, the aforementioned uncle, another former pillar of the Dublin and Kilmacud Crokes teams.
He wouldn’t shed many tears or show much emotion, she says, but she noticed a drop or two roll down his cheek. She pulled him up on it, he denied. But it was there. The raw emotion and how much this meant, not only to the players.
“It was amazing to share,” she explains. ”I’ve two sets of families. My Mam and Dad have different partners and I’ve two families basically.
“I’ve brothers on one side and sisters on the other and they were all there, all over the railing, like six of them. I have a lovely photo of all of us.
“My oldest brother is nine and he has autism. He’d never sit down and watch anything. He was so into it and to have him sit down and watch something like that, means a lot.
“It was great. You do it obviously because you love playing with the girls but you also do it for kind of background reasons as well.”
Magee remembers her early days quite vividly, but not for footballing reasons.
“I didn’t have an interest,” she admits.
“I remember playing a match and I was just chatting away to the opposition. Dad would be shouting at me. I don’t know what age I started getting into it.”
But when she got into it, she never looked back. It was almost a ritual. She’d go along to Crokes training sessions and watch her father and uncle, the Magee brothers, ply their trade night after night.
She was always stuck right in the middle of the chaos. She’d go to Dublin training sessions and chat away to ‘Pillar’ when he was at the helm, carefully studying the drills and movements, plays by play.
If you haven’t put your finger on it already, you might recognise Magee from the RTÉ documentary ‘Blues Sisters,’ which charts Dublin’s incredible 2017.
On televisions across the country one dark Monday evening last year, we got a real insight into her personal life and the close bond she shares with her father.
The cameras followed him to a match as the boot was on the other foot and he nervously watched his oldest daughter don the Dublin jersey and ultimately bag the All-Ireland bragging rights over him.
And she echoed her words on his influence on her game once again at at the announcement of Gourmet Food Parlour as the new sponsor of the Higher Education Committee (HEC) third-level championships on Thursday.
“He never pushes you but he’s obviously always there to give you a word of advice. He’s still my Dad so if he shouts at me on the sideline, I’m so angry like, ‘Leave me alone!’ I’d always ignore him.
“But then after the match, I’d go up to him and chat to him and he’d always have things to say.”
He’d give her little talks and pieces of advices before matches, and Magee admits that she does get slightly frustrated with her Dad sometimes after matches. It’s a rare occurrence though.
“Especially if you’ve lost and you haven’t done well,” she adds.
“He’d only be ringing to kind of boost you but you kind of need a bit of space. Other than that, I have a lot of time (for his advice). He knows what he’s talking about.”
In the Pat Comer-directed documentary, she also speaks openly about dealing with her formerly problematic aggression on the pitch.
Fearless, ruthless and physical, she spoke about being sin-binned and how, from the moment Mick Bohan took over the reins as manager, it was an area of her game that he didn’t want her to change.
She grins as she says she thinks she got it from her Dad — ‘I think Darren’s a bit more cuter’ — but he’s helped her control her aggression on the pitch and use it in a positive way.
“I felt like I came along a lot this year,” the Dublin City University (DCU) student continues.
“I got an elbow in the mouth against Waterford and I went down. I didn’t say anything, whereas maybe if that was last year or the year before, I might have got up and reacted. I think I’m getting a bit better.
“It’s kind of more mis-timing tackles. I’d be strong in the tackle, so I’d sometimes come into too strong and I’d put my hand up too high and I’d probably pull someone down. He (Mick Bohan) said he didn’t want (me) to lose that because you have to be strong.
“I think with Ladies Football in strength and conditioning, and gym work, everyone is becoming stronger. He just said we needed to work on me not getting sin-binned. I hadn’t been sin-binned at all last year and then Mick came on board for the first year and I got sin-binned like three times.
“I feel I got better in the tackle during the championship and I think I showed it. I still have the aggression, but obviously way more disciplined. It’s not nice, and I know it’s only 10 minutes but it could be the winning and losing of a game.”
The night that Blues Sisters aired and the days and weeks that followed brought a notable spotlight on the Dublin ladies footballers, as viewers across the length and breadth of the country got a rare insight into the personal life of an inter-county player.
Not only did it attract interest and recognition from adults, it also caught the eye of the younger generation. Kids of all ages, boys and girls, were in awe of the achievements of Magee and her teammates. And even before they appeared on television screens.
After that glorious September day in Croke Park, came all the duties that go hand in hand with being All-Ireland champions. Homecomings at clubs, hospital visits, medal presentations with younger kids and school visits.
Magee was kept on her toes throughout the process, making appearances at several schools and doing other bits and pieces.
She went to a primary school in Ballymun where they had made up a song and three different Limerick-type poems for her arrival. Her old haunting ground had made a collage of photographs, some of her lining out in her younger years for them and others from more recent times.
“It was lovely like, it was really nice,” she smiles, adding that she was slightly surprised to see as much interest from younger boys as well as girls.
“It’s mad. You’d always expect the little girls, but the little boys were up at me. I’ve cousins that I went around to in Balbriggan and they were only delighted that I ended up being in their school. His friends and him.
“He’s a bit older, he wouldn’t be that young. He’d be fifth or sixth class. They’re kind of getting to the ‘cool’ age, I thought he wouldn’t have an interest. He was delighted!
“Blue hair and all for the occasion. The schools were amazing. I went to secondary schools and all the lads still sat there and listened and they had questions. It was really good, it just shows.
She adds: “I’d have little brothers and they were supporting me but they’re my brothers kind of a thing. Even walking around the stadium (on All-Ireland day), you could see loads of the girls but there was loads of boys as well.
“It’s great because obviously girls and boys support the lads so it’s good to have both supporting us. It’s usually just a high pitched noise because it’s all little kids, all girls. Whereas this year it was such a mixture.
“You could tell people were coming to watch good quality games. They weren’t just coming for the sake of it.
The Kilmacud Crokes star is relishing the challenge that lies ahead; retaining the All-Ireland crown and also maintaining the interest and coverage they have conjured.
She shares her obvious delight at the double headers announcement earlier this month for the Lidl Ladies National League Division 1 — they face Cork and Kerry at Croke Park on 10 February and 3 March respectively and travel to Mayo for a McHale Park meeting on 24 February.
Getting back to business properly can’t come quick enough. The celebrations are over and they’re ready for what 2018 holds.
On Wednesday night they took to the field for their first match, a challenge against DCU’s first team.
Also central to the college outfit, Magee was facing divided loyalties. She didn’t play, didn’t have to pick, she grins, but still found herself more than involved.
“I was shouting for both and I realised I was still on the DCU side. I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I shouldn’t be shouting!’ I was kinda calling people, like, ‘Watch your back!’
“It’s always good to have them challenge matches. Especially as a college team, you always want to play a county team. Getting them behind you gives you a really big boost.”
Although preparations are underway with the Glasnevin university for the O’Connor Cup championship, all eyes are firmly fixed on 28 January first.
Donning that blue jersey against Donegal and kicking off another year of inter-county action.
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