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'It's just so dismissive of the work that goes into it' - Dublin boss on talk of capital's dominance

‘People started saying to us, ‘Three, four, five-in-a-row, you’ll end up like the lads.’ Everyone just throws it out as if it just happens.’

WHEN THE WORD dominance is put to Dublin ladies football manager Mick Bohan, he has none of it at first.

mick-bohan Dublin ladies boss Mick Bohan. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

His side are chasing three in-a-row on Sunday, with the Drive for Five most definitely still alive for Jim Gavin’s charges who are preparing for their All-Ireland final replay against Kerry less than 24 hours beforehand.

As a huddle of reporters gathered around Bohan at Croke Park yesterday, it was going to come up sooner rather than later. 

You’re both kind of dominating similarly at the minute, is it coincidence?

“The lads, and ourselves?”

Yes.

He takes a moment. 

Of course, the three in-a-row is on at the minute after their past two September successes. But what about the losses before that; the three in-a-row they don’t want to remember AKA the heartbreaking 2014, 2015 and 2016 decider defeats to Cork.

Bohan came in for his second stint at the helm ahead of the 2017 campaign. In beating Mayo in the final, they won their first All-Ireland since 2010 — and just their second-ever. The followed that up with a league and championship double last year, the league crown the first in their history.

That Dublin dominance is quite a pre-conception when it comes to the ladies’ game. Who could ever forget the Rebels’ 11 All-Ireland titles in 12 years? People just say it about Dublin because of their impressive trophy haul in the past two years. 

“It’s amazing how people see domination,” he smiles. “Cork won 11 All-Irelands out of 12 — we win three in our history and we’re now seen as dominating.

“We won nothing in U14, U16s, minor, in underage this year in the city. We haven’t won a minor title since Leah Caffrey [was there, 2012] so that’s definitely not domination.”

It is the narrative that’s out there though, and Bohan accepts that.

“We’ve got thrown in a little bit with the lads, which is great in one regard,” he explains.

“The association between the two teams and the connections has been incredibly healthy. But all these things, no more than their situation, everything comes to an end. It nearly ended two weeks ago for them.

mick-bohan-and-noelle-healy-celebrate With Noelle Healy after the 2017 final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’re obviously proud of what they’ve achieved and where we’re at at the moment but we’ve very clear on the fact that this could be taken away from us very quickly.”

A few more questions come and go. Does Saturday’s replay take away from his side’s outing on Sunday? Plain and simply, no. In fact, it adds to it, he reckons.

Anything he’s hearing from Dublin families is they’ll be at both across a really “proud weekend for the city”. Likewise, for Galway, it’s an incredible week after their All-Ireland senior camogie title win on Sunday.

“This family that we started off with many moons ago, to play our games,” he adds. “that’s what it’s always been about.

“I just think it’s a unique occasion. Certainly, from my perspective, I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever be involved in again where you’ll see two All-Irelands within 24 hours of each other.”

Galway? An excellent team, he says, that play the game the way he likes to see it played.

The two sides have built up an exciting rivalry of late, but looking back to 2004 and their last meeting on the biggest stage, Bohan remembers watching it at HQ.. He had overseen a narrow final defeat the previous year but as a fan this time around, backed the Jackies to do the job.

Memories are re-visited; how Dublin were up by double digits, pretty much home and hosed, but Galway came back. That’s sport. And he’s ready for Sunday’s showdown to possibly take on a life of its own.

And then it’s back to the dominance talk. 

In the dressing room, do you have to play it down to make sure that the girls don’t buy into it?

“No, we don’t actually, at all,” he smiles, again. “Because… and I’m not saying this because you have a microphone there, you wouldn’t believe how humble our group are.

sinead-aherne-lifts-the-trophy Sinead Aherne lifting the Brendan Martin Cup last September. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It’s something we’re really proud of. At this stage they’ve lost more than they’ve won, and I know you can say that about most teams, but they’ve been on that stage on three occasions and come out on the wrong side of it, it fairly makes you humble about yourself.

“So the fact that they’ve found themselves on the other side of it, they haven’t got carried away with themselves one bit. They’re hugely appreciative of the fact that they’re back here again with another opportunity to do it.

“I’m not trying to play down that whole card about dominance or otherwise, but it’s a little bit like the minute we found ourselves in this position, people started saying to us, ‘Three-in-a-row, four-in-a-row, five-in-a-row, you’ll end up like the lads’.

“And it’s just so dismissive of the work that goes into it, and equally of the people that are trying to take the prize off you.”

He continues: “I feel at times people actually don’t think about it before they say it. And I find that hard at times to take.

“Because you just think about the hours and the days and the nights that you’ve left your own kids at home or whatever, and then everyone just throws it out as if it just happens, and it doesn’t. It’s relentless time, month after month.

“If you look at Jim, what he’s done with that group… people talk about Dublin men’s team dominating but what has he done? Look at his life for the last seven years, what has he done outside of his work and his football? Have his family suffered on the base of the fact that Dublin has benefitted? It’s only when he goes that we’ll see the work that he did.”

Clontarf man Bohan, who has worked as a skills coach under Gavin in the past, is well-versed in this.

“There won’t be that dominance again when he goes regardless of any other player. The same thing goes across the board with that whole thing just thrown out. Sometimes, people need to think about it a little bit more before they say those things.

“Look at those Cork teams that won 10 All-Irelands — you don’t get here just because you have good quality players or just because you have the three or four best, that doesn’t do it. There’s so much more beyond that.

tg4-all-ireland-ladies-football-championship-finals-2019-captains-day Captains from each of the All-Ireland finalists at Croke Park yesterday. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

“All you have to do is look across the water at the Premiership, year after year we see guys paid millions and they can’t perform on a regular basis and why? Because it doesn’t really matter to them. 

“If you look at teams who get back here on a regular basis, look what this means to them if they’re willing to almost put everything else in their life on hold to be successful for this period of time.”

Successful, his reign has been, anyway. That’s for sure. 

Not to compare too much, but he reckons the women’s workload is 100% the same as the men’s, and at times’s they put in more. Just ask anyone who’s seen it first-hand: anyone from Gavin’s side who has witnessed it will vouch for Bohan.

“They are blown away by what they see this group are willing to do,” he continues. “That incredible respect.

“When I finish up with this that will probably be one of the biggest achievements that… Forget about the female thing, the genders, they’ll have been seen as footballers and that will have been the biggest achievement, away from any medals or cups.”

That has been pretty sweet too though, let’s be real.

“Winning an All-Ireland in its own entity is an incredible achievement, to put one back to back is an incredible achievement, to go again is just phenomenal,” he concludes.

“It says an awful lot about the group that they still have that hunger to keep revisiting the well because this group haven’t just done it the last three years, it’s been together for eight or nine years and that’s an incredible amount of time.

“To play six All-Ireland finals in-a-row here, I think that says an awful lot about them.”

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Emma Duffy

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