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Tommy Dickson/INPHO Lyndsey Davey celebrating with the Brendan Martin Cup in 2018.
# capital loss
Fighting fires on and off the pitch, Lyndsey Davey encapsulated all that is good about the game
The Dublin great announced her inter-county retirement over the weekend.

THE RETIREMENT QUESTION was raised at the end of each of the last few seasons, the hemming and hawing in full flow.

One more year.

Until over the weekend, when Lyndsey Davey called time on an illustrious inter-county football career. 

An interview with the Dublin great was circulated by the Ladies Gaelic Football Association on Saturday, confirmation of the five-time All-Ireland winner and All-Star’s decision within.

“I suppose in every player’s life, there comes a time when you just have to assess what’s going on,” she told Daire Walsh. “It kind of has to be done on a year-on-year basis.

“I just came to the decision with my body, that I have a lot of miles on the clock. It just probably gets harder every year to keep putting your body through that. The way the game is developing, the recovery obviously takes a lot longer.

“From each session to each match, you just get that realisation that it’s the right thing for your body and probably at the stage in my life that I’m at, it’s probably the right time to move onto the next chapter.”

The 33-year-old also cited work commitments, which have been well-documented through the years. On top of her role as a firefighter at Dublin Airport, Davey has recently become a paramedic, so that has added another dimension to juggling demands.

A hero on and off the field; an incredibly modest player, person and role model encapsulating all that is good about the game.

Honesty, humility, hunger, work-rate, skill. Fighting fires on and off the pitch.

It’s all she has ever known.

Slight in stature but with the heart of a lion, the Skerries Harps star forward has been an inter-county player and Dublin senior footballer for much longer than she hasn’t.

She made her debut at the tender age of 14 in 2004. A Junior Cert student at the time, she was sprung from the bench in a Leinster semi-final win over Louth almost two decades ago now. She played in her debut All-Ireland final just weeks after her 15th birthday, and won her first All-Star aged 16.

It would be the first of her 11 All-Ireland deciders — five wins, six defeats; the triumphs in 2010 and the four-in-a-row from ’17 to ’20 — and five All-Stars, Davey’s roll of honours across 18 years of senior service to Dublin pretty remarkable. (She took a year out in ’12, travelling to New York on a J1 visa.)

Aside from the Celtic Crosses and individual accolades — which include Player of the Match in the ’19 All-Ireland final, Player of the Year nominees in ’15 and ’18 and countless others — she amassed 13 Leinster senior championship medals and four National Football League crowns, spread evenly across Divisions 1 and 2.

The last of those provincial honours came in May after a narrow triumph over Meath in Croke Park. It proved to be Davey’s last run-out on the hallowed turf at HQ, but it was an historic occasion and a standout career highlight as she basked in the glory post-match.

Her final outing in the Sky Blue jersey would be July’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Donegal. She was a bright spark on a hugely disappointing day for Mick Bohan’s side, as they suffered an uncharacteristically early exit in Carrick-on-Shannon.

lyndsey-davey-celebrates-after-the-game James Crombie / INPHO After the 2010 All-Ireland win. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I kind of knew this year that this was always going to be my last year, regardless of the outcome,” Davey explained in the LGFA interview.

The perfect five-in-a-row in 2021 would have unquestionably been the perfect way to bow out, but Meath turned the ladies football landscape on its head that day and have reigned supreme since. Davey’s ’22 return was made easier by the hunger and desire to improve, to “try to get us back”. But ultimately, it wasn’t to be.

Even four in 2020 would have been a lovely note, the sheer emotion shared between herself and fellow stalwart Siobhán McGrath indicating that time may be up, before being reeled back in amidst Covid uncertainty and instability with other departures.

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Now, she follows former team-mates Noelle Healy and Niamh McEvoy into retirement, the long-serving duo calling time on their own glittering careers in April ’21 and ’22 respectively.

McGrath has been absent from the Dublin set-up of late so uncertainty reigns over her own future, along with that of four-in-a-row winning captain Sinéad Aherne.

Another stalwart, Sinéad Goldrick, has just helped Melbourne to AFLW glory and her continued involvement would be another massive boost for Dublin as they look to knock Meath off their perch.

They did it with all-conquering Cork in the past, and Davey is confident Bohan’s side can do the same again.

“You would have been fearful if too many girls stepped away at one time and if Mick left as well. I think the team could have been in a huge transition. The fact that he stayed is a massive plus for the team and they know what it takes to get back to the top. They have the talent there.”

Davey gave little indication of her own future plans, aside from her hopes to help Skerries in their Dublin intermediate championship bid next year, provided work commitments and injuries don’t interfere.

She’s spoken about the lure of the AFLW in the past, and is also a talented soccer player, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see another sporting chapter open.

But as this one closes, it’s important to pay tribute to an illustrious career. 

A player — and person — who encapsulates all that is good about the game.

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