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'I appeal to the Minister for Health, Minister for Sport, the LGFA and the GAA to really push the buttons'

Dublin ladies boss Mick Bohan has issued a plea for all players, staff and family members to be allowed to the All-Ireland final.

Dublin ladies manager Mick Bohan.
Dublin ladies manager Mick Bohan.
Image: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

AND SO, THE chorus gets louder.

Dublin ladies football boss Mick Bohan has echoed the words of many Gaelic games managers across the length and breadth of the country calling for all squad members to be allowed to championship matches.

It was Limerick hurling maestro John Kiely who ultimately started the conversation after the Treaty’s Munster final win two weeks ago. “I would appeal to the authorities at government level, at national level, to end this nonsense,” Kiely hit out at the time. 

Many have followed suit since with three-in-a-row All-Ireland winning boss Bohan issuing heartfelt pleas after yesterday’s semi-final to allow the extended panel, management team and family members to attend the Croke Park showpiece on 20 December.

“Here we are this evening, seven of our panel aren’t here, four of our management team aren’t here, none of their families who support them on a daily basis to allow them to play,” Bohan told the media after his side’s five-point win over Armagh.

“And every time they come training into a group of 40 people, they take a risk, and they go back to their families right all over again, but their families are willing to do that to allow them play inter-county football, or hurling or camogie. That’s happening the length and breadth of the country. It’s a testament to our Association that that’s what we are willing to do.

But they do take a risk. And realistically, what’s the reward for that? That they don’t get to come to the game in a stadium where they don’t have to come into a changing room, they don’t have to come into an enclosed area.

“I really, really do appeal to the Minister for Health, Minister for Sport, to the LGFA and the GAA to really push the buttons.

“I’ve got more text messages this week from people wishing us luck, saying, ‘You’ve actually brought a bit of light into the house over the last couple of weeks.’ And obviously right around the country whether it’s at lads’ Gaelic games, or ladies’ Gaelic games, it’s the same. I’m looking forward tomorrow to sitting down to watch the other hurling game, we all have something that we need a little bit of a lift from.”

Having called for the championship to be scrapped in May as he outlined his concerns on RTÉ 2fm’s Game On, Bohan continued, six months on:

Was I in favour of it [going ahead]? No, because I saw so many problems. What have we done? We’ve tried to solve the problems. But has it been like previous years? No. Is the same enjoyment there? No. But I’m very aware of the fact that people are getting enjoyment out of it.

“So as a result of that, we feel there’s an onus and responsibility on us to try and give a performance so that we can bring some entertainment to people’s lives. Our focus for playing this year has shifted.”

That said, the Clontarf clubman is delighted to see ladies football 60 minutes away from the TG4 All-Ireland senior final — in which Dublin will face either Cork or Galway — without a major hitch despite his early scepticism.

“It’s a compliment to the teams all around the country and how disciplined they’ve been, because this doesn’t just happen,” he noted

“The work around the edges coming to training, avoiding friends… I know everybody’s doing it but from a point of view of the team just distancing the whole time until they literally get to the pitch. No meals, no socialising from a team point of view as in going for something to eat, having a cup of coffee, sitting in a changing room; it’s not going to a pub, that’s not the socialising that’s involved at this level.

“My major concern back when I spoke about it was I saw first-hand the strain that they were under. And that hasn’t changed. They were, and still are.

There’s no right or wrong in all of this, we’re all trying to solve a problem here. And realistically, I think the young men and women of our country who play our national games have done an incredible job, and it’s something we should be immensely proud of.”

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On the ferocious battle at Kingspan Breffni Park as a whole, Bohan said that he was pleased with his the Sky Blues’ performance en route to a seventh consecutive decider, while heaping praise on the stern Armagh challenge as they came back over and over again.

“I was saying during the week that these were a really good team. You don’t obviously know until they become your enemy, and you have to look at them really closely. But the more we looked at them, the less surprised we were that they had beaten Mayo and Cork [last year] because they were really, really good.

“In fairness, they asked everything of us out there. Obviously, we’re delighted that our group came up with the answers, that’s obviously very pleasing. But that was a real championship game, a really good game of football.

blaithin-macken-and-jennifer-dunne Armagh's Blaithin Mackin and Jennifer Dunne of Dublin. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

“It shifted so many times. Probably the final quarter, we controlled it out really well but up to that, it was up for grabs.”

“I was delighted for Nicole Owens, this time last year she was on crutches, a torn ACL,” he added with a smile. “This time last year Siobhan Killeen had a torn hamstring off the bone, and both of them featured today. Those things are very rewarding in sport.”

Contrastingly on the injury front, Dublin lost captain Sinéad Aherne in the first half as she limped off — and with three weeks until the final, that comes as a serious conern.

“She probably got a nick in her calf during the week,” Bohan explained. “We had rested her, we thought she was okay but it just seemed to pull. She has a couple of weeks to recover now, hopefully she’ll get back.

“She’s obviously so important to us from a point of view of leadership. But other girls stepped up. I look back to a national league game last year against Donegal, Sinead wasn’t taking the frees and Carla [Rowe, scorer of 2-4 yesterday] was and it wasn’t going well for her.

“She persisted and worked hard at it and there tonight, when she was asked to step up, she had a completely different strike of the ball and was very composed. I actually thought she had a fantastic outing.”

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