'If you want people to watch you play, then play. Raise the standard' - Dublin ladies football boss

Mick Bohan is into his second stint as the Dublin ladies football manager.

MICK BOHAN IS always learning.

Mick Bohan 13/9/2003 INPHO INPHO

He has worked with a plethora of teams at various grades, and has spent 15 years working with inter-county teams in the Dublin system.

But there’s always room to squeeze in some more lessons.

He previously worked alongside Jim Gavin, and as the current manager of the Dublin ladies team, he knows the value of picking Gavin’s brain whenever the pair meet.

“Jim would be so supportive, we’re still under the same flag,” he told The42 at the launch of the 2017 TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Football Championships.

“I meet him quite regularly and run a few things by him.”

“I’m still learning off him. We worked well together and there would be a huge level of respect (between us).”

For the second time in his managerial career, Bohan is at the helm of the Dublin ladies footballers, having previously guided them to an All-Ireland final appearance in 2003.

The Brendan Martin Cup was within their grasp, but a last minute Mayo goal denied them at the death on that occasion.

Mick Bohan with Dublin Ladies football team 5/10/2003 Mick Bohan standing alongside the Dublin team before the 2003 All-Ireland final against Mayo. INPHO INPHO

Over the subsequent 14 years, Dublin collected just one All-Ireland crown, and the team that Bohan inherited upon his return this season, were also nursing the wounds of a defeat in the All-Ireland final.

In this house of pain, he’s deconstructing it all to build the players into something better.

And after winning their sixth consecutive Leinster title earlier this month, he’s happy with their progress at this point.

It was a slow burner and sometimes we were asking if we were making progress at all. But all of a sudden, a couple of weeks before championship when we had a nice bit of time with them, we saw it coming together.

“There’s bigger tests ahead but we’re happy with where they are.”

I still think there’s a gap in the skills that we need to go after and we put a huge emphasis on that. I think we’re only really beginning to see the fruits of that after seven months of work.”

After his appointment, Bohan noticed something in the natural kicking style of some of the players. Many of them preferred to kick off the lace of the boot, instead of using the instep technique.

After an assessment, they found that problems in their glutes, combined with poor coaching at underage level, were at the root of the problem.

He also discovered other aspects of the game, where girls are playing catch-up on their male equivalents.

“If you look at the men’s game, you’re looking at a shot to score ratio of over 70% in the top teams. We’re way under that in the ladies game.

That’s the basic skill of the game. If you don’t put the ball over the bar, you won’t win the game. So, there’s a void in that.

“I would also see (that) most ladies teams kick on a ratio of about 1:5 so they hand-pass the ball more often than not. That’s not the situation in the men’s.

The reason they’re not doing it is because they’re afraid of giving the ball away. Those skills need to be improved.”

“If you don’t have two feet in the men’s game, people look at you twice and ask, ‘what have you been doing for the last 10 years?’ In the Ladies’ game, it’s only beginning. There’s very few girls who are competent on both sides of their body.”

“I genuinely feel we’re only beginning to see the start of it.”

Poor attendances at Ladies GAA games continues to provoke frustration, and although there was a record attendance at last year’s All-Ireland finals, progression in this area is still slow.

Olwen Carey and Sinead Finnegan with Cora Staunton Dublin defenders surround Mayo's Cora Staunton in their Lidl National League Division 1 clash in Croke Park. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Double-headers with men’s matches have been implemented in an effort to boost numbers, with Bohan’s side facing Mayo in a National League game that preceded Dublin’s game against Roscommon in Croke Park earlier this season.

Bohan was happy to see spectators turning out for the game, even if he wasn’t happy with his side’s performance.

We didn’t play particularly well the night we played Mayo but there was a great atmosphere. There was a great crew that turned up, albeit for the second half, but they turned up.

“To give the girls the opportunity to play in different venues in front of crowds — that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to promote our youth.”

But while he is aware that double-headers can play a part in improving the profile of the game, he believes that there is a certain onus on players to attract the crowds too.

There’s continuous comparisons made between different teams, for example in Dublin — what the men get, what the women get. We’ve said right from the start, ‘if you want people to come and watch you, then play. Raise the standard.”

“The standard goes up, then people get entertained and come to watch. Don’t be looking to blame somebody else.

When I went to the National League final between Donegal and Cork, I came away entertained.

“There was a decade or so where the only matches I went to in Ladies football were the All-Ireland finals. The reason for that was that the quality in a lot of the games didn’t attract me and that’s being honest.

“For the coaches and people involved, that’s the goal to chase.”

Molly Lamb dejected Dejected Dublin players following the 2016 All-Ireland final. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Cork are the reigning All-Ireland champions, and remain the target for all contenders in the senior ranks of Ladies football.

But after failing to reach the Munster final this year for the first time in over a decade, there is a belief that this could be the season where they could be derailed.

Dublin came agonisingly close to clinching the Brendan Martin Cup against them in the 2016 decider and their quest to atone for that defeat continues in four weeks’ time.

But Bohan insists that their focus is solely on the next game, and not the possibilities beyond that point.

“We haven’t spoken about winning trophies and we won’t. We just look at what’s in front of our noses and go after it.”

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