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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 19 February, 2019
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'The onus is on players to produce a spectacle' - Double-headers can show rising standards, says Dublin star

Three-time All-Ireland winner Niamh McEvoy feels it’s the way forward for ladies football.

THREE-TIME ALL-IRELAND WINNER Niamh McEvoy has welcomed Dublin’s return to Croke Park for two league double-header clashes with open arms. 

Gourmet Food Parlour 2019 HEC Ladies Football Championship Launch Dublin and DIT star Niamh McEvoy. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Mick Bohan’s back-to-back All-Ireland champions will open their Division 1 defence at HQ against Donegal on Saturday, 2 February, before facing Mayo in a repeat of last year’s decider on 23 February.

Both fixtures will act as curtain raisers for their male counterparts as McEvoy’s Sky Blues look to keep their hands on their first-ever league crown.

The past two years, Dublin have had one league fixture as a double-header in Croke Park so the increase to two comes as a nice boost on top of September’s All-Ireland final day.

“It’s brilliant,” the star forward said at this afternoon’s launch of the Gourmet Food Parlour HEC Ladies Football Championships. “We’re really looking forward to them.

“It’s a brilliant step forward for the sport. I just feel really privileged to be involved at this time. For ladies sport in general in this country, it’s amazing but in particular, our sport.

“It’s brilliant to get these double-headers, it’s more exposure for the sport. Previously, I would have only played in Croke Park if we reached the pinnacle — if you get to the last game of the season — so it’s brilliant now for girls to be getting exposure.

“Apart from the fact that it’s an amazing stadium and stuff, it’s the best pitch in the country. You want to be playing on those types of surfaces.”

27-year-old McEvoy believes that the 13 double billings the LGFA announced yesterday are all positives, and with that comes a chance — and responsibility for the players — to show the rising standards and improvements within the game.

“People might be coming in early before the men’s games to have a look and see what the sport’s about,” she explains, “obviously the onus is on the players to give a good account of ourselves.

“You often hear people beating the drum about attendances and stuff and trying to get people to come out, but then the onus is on the players to actually produce a spectacle. I think over the last two, three years that’s what has begun to happen. The standards have began to rise.

Niamh McEvoy McEvoy is a key player for the Dubs. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It’s up to us now on those days, on those two double-headers, to produce good standards for the sport. We’re well aware in ladies football that we need to be producing spectacles if we want the sport to continue to grow.”

She emphasises the fact that she wants it to be a case that people don’t feel like they should go, she wants spectators to be drawn by what ladies football offers.

“In previous years, people would have been saying to me, ‘It was a great family day out’ and stuff like that but now people are saying, ‘That was a brilliant spectacle and I’m really enjoying watching ladies football.

“So many people have said to me, ‘Do you know what? I enjoyed that much more than the men’s game.’ It’s obviously a bit more pure at the minute, there’s no blanket defence, there’s less contact allowed so the tackle is really clear, the dispossessions are really clean.

“Definitely, I’ve felt great pride over the last two or three years where people have been like, ‘What a spectacle that was, what a game, brilliant competition, what an encounter.’

“It’s just great to be involved and I hope that everybody who’s involved in the sport has that similar mindset that you need to continue to raise the standards for the sport to grow.”

McEvoy, a fully-qualified primary school teacher who’s taking a break to pursue a degree in Business and Entrepreneurship in DIT, says there’s a “great buzz” in the Dublin camp as they get set to open their 2019 campaign.

With some players taking a longer break before the madness starts again, they’ve added exciting younger talents to their ranks as they get ready to defend their three titles.

Skerries Harp ace Lyndsey Davey recently committed for a 16th campaign, and her experience and leadership qualities are of vital importance, says McEvoy, while the continuity of Bohan as manager is another welcome boost.

“Mick is brilliant,” she says, adding how much his emphasis on basic skill has improved their game.

Mick Bohan celebrates at the final whistle Dublin manager Mick Bohan. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“He came in and was very honest with us. He said our skills weren’t where they needed to be, and there was a responsibility on us as players to raise those standards.

“I heard that there a few offers there [to take over men's teams] but we are very lucky to have someone of his caliber involved with us.

“He has brought in a brilliant group and he’s a great leader. Anytime Mick tells us something we believe him. Coming up to the All-Ireland final, he told us that we were going to win – if we did certain things – and he’s the type of man that you would believe.

“He’s easy to follow. I believe everything he says. He’s a skills coach. He was involved in the men’s set-up as a skills coach so that’s only going to drive the standards up.”

She’s honoured to be part of Dublin’s success and appreciates that it’s a truly brilliant time to be involved, but 2017 and 2018 are in the past.

It’s all about the future and building on success, as she reminds herself of the dark days and those narrow All-Ireland final defeats to Cork in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

“It’s a really special time to be involved,” she smiles. “We certainly celebrated it for the last couple of months and really enjoyed it.

“But that was last season so we have parked it and we know that nothing we did last year is going to be good enough to do the same this year.

“Once you are successful, it just makes you hungry for more. If we were to go on and not do ourselves justice, it would be extraordinarily disappointing.”

Niamh McEvoy Facing Cork in last year's final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

She most definitely won’t get carried away with three in-a-row talk anyway.

“It’s funny, anytime I hear the words ‘three-in-a-row’, I always think of losing three in-a-row to Cork,” she concludes.

“So I would never really let myself get sucked into that type of thing and certainly Mick wouldn’t as well. We’re well aware of he feels on the topic.

“I was involved in 2010 when we won [their first All-Ireland] and then there was a seven-year gap until we won again so I’m very aware of not living in the past and trying to continue to improve.”

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Emma Duffy

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