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'Mixed views' on Leinster final double-header in Croke Park as Dubs without two star forwards

The Sky Blues and Meath renew rivalries in Saturday’s decider.

Mick Bohan with Carla Rowe and Sinéad Aherne after the 2020 All-Ireland final.
Mick Bohan with Carla Rowe and Sinéad Aherne after the 2020 All-Ireland final.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

DUBLIN BOSS MICK Bohan has “mixed views” on this weekend’s Leinster final double-header in Croke Park.

Bohan’s Sky Blues face rivals Meath in the ladies’ decider, the counties locking horns in their first final since the Royals’ famously ended the Drive for Five last September.

Eamonn Murray’s side have gone from strength-to-strength since, adding a first Division 1 league title to their cabinet while recording some big wins, including one over the Dubs in Parnell Park.

Saturday’s showdown acts as a curtain-raiser for the meeting of Dessie Farrell’s Dublin men and Kildare. It will be an historic occasion as the two provincial finals share the same venue for the first time, with many welcoming the move, though Bohan is unsure.

“I’ve mixed views on it,” he said at yesterday’s TG4 All-Ireland ladies football championship launch in Croke Park.

“First of all, the game is on at 2.30, and the second game is at 5pm. Unless you are the die-hard, you won’t be here. I know there’s the talk about extra-time and all that but… I’d prefer to see the five kicks immediately, and have the gap tightened. At the end of the day, it’s a provincial final, but there’s bigger games to come.

“If you’re bringing it into headquarters, it’s for that purpose. As regards the double-header itself, all those things are important in closing the gap. People are always delighted to get an opportunity to play in Croke Park, but you still want to play in Croke Park with a crowd. I just think that could have been done a bit better.”

“If Dublin and Meath were to play anywhere at the moment, for a Leinster final, you’d probably get 15,000,” he later added.

“15,000 in a ground that holds 15,000 would be electric. Out here, unless you have 50,000 – 60,000 [at least], it’s hard to generate that atmosphere.”

Dublin will be without two star forwards, Carla Rowe and Sinéad Aherne, for the showdown, though everyone else is fit and firing after coming through an in-house game last weekend.

Rowe, joint-captain with Niamh Collins, is back on the training pitch after a difficult start to the 2022 season.

“She’s just been unfortunate, she went from a calf niggle into a little bit of tendinitis,” Bohan revealed. “Hopefully now we’ll have her back in about 10 days. Disappointed for her.

“Sinéad is back but it might be a little bit early, we’ll see. Particularly at the stage of her career she’s at, we just want to mind her for the moment. As you know, she’s hugely influential in our group. They’re two players we’d obviously love to have in the mix because they certainly help us up front.”

Dublin are the long-time kingpins of Leinster, having won the last eight senior titles in-a-row.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic could do so, the competition was scrapped for 2020 after Westmeath were relegated to the intermediate ranks. Themselves and Dublin had contested a straight final for several seasons up to that point, but both Westmeath and Meath are now back in the top-flight.

Bohan has shared his thoughts on scrapping provincial championships through the years, and stands by those beliefs despite the three-team competition in Leinster this year and seeded All-Ireland series.

“I’d still say, for the betterment of the Association, it should be an open draw. It’s a Leinster final, great. Ask Westmeath is it great? [they conceded 9-38 in two games] There’s another great game on Saturday but that doesn’t mean it’s a great competition.

“It’s great for ourselves and Meath, for getting games that most other counties would be delighted to get but that doesn’t make the Leinster senior championship great, it’s not all okay. Is it good for Mayo and Galway, one game? At the moment it’s good for us but is it right for everyone else? I don’t think so.”

tg4-ladies-football-championship-launch-2022 Players with TG4 Director General Alan Esslemont and LGFA President Mícheál Naughton at the launch of the 2022 TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Championships. Source: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

Bohan added that he saw this year’s National League as “a serious setback to the development of your squad” due to the decrease in games to a minimum of three, maximum of five.

He believes the championship is wide open, with several contenders on the hunt for the Brendan Martin Cup. 

“There are certainly five or six teams who genuinely have a chance while before you’d be paying token to that. You’d be saying, ‘Such and such is dangerous’ but you wouldn’t believe it. That’s a testament to a lot of good work going on. I do see the gap is tightening.”

The All-Ireland series gets underway on 11 June. The winners of Saturday’s Leinster final will find themselves in a group with Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan, while the runners-up are pitted against Armagh and Monaghan. 

But the only team on Dublin’s mind right now is Meath.

“Someone took something from us so you’re gonna give it a crack and in fairness to them they’re wearing the crown well at the moment so it’s going to be an interesting 10 weeks,” four-in-a-row winning manager Bohan concluded.

“Last year we didn’t dismiss them in any way. We never dismiss any opponents, we just hadn’t experienced the system they play which is very frustrating to break down.

“This year it’s completely different. We played them in the league, we’ve played them already in the Leinster championship and are going to play them again in the final on Saturday…. win or lose we know what we’re up against now. We’re either good enough or not, we’re prepared enough or not.”

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Emma Duffy

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