From relegation battle to first Dublin senior final and uncertainty over inter-county return

Olwen Carey and Thomas Davis face Kilmacud Crokes in Friday’s Parnell Park showdown.

Olwen Carey of Thomas Davis pictured ahead of Friday’s Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Ladies Football Club Championship final.
Olwen Carey of Thomas Davis pictured ahead of Friday’s Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Ladies Football Club Championship final.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

SHE’S BEEN A star for Dublin through the years, a three-time All-Ireland winner and an All-Star, but Olwen Carey has focused solely on club football in 2022.

The decision has paid dividends thus far, her Thomas Davis side set to contest their first-ever Dublin senior final after a colourful journey.

“This time last year, we were actually in a relegation battle for senior, so one year later, it’s such a big achievement but it’s also something that we felt that we could work towards,” Carey says ahead of Friday’s Parnell Park showdown against Kilmacud Crokes.

“Last year, we probably didn’t show ourselves. It’s 10 years since we’ve been in a club final [junior, 2012, when they went on to win the All-Ireland] so we’re all very happy. A good few girls are still around. It’s mad because these things don’t come around. That’s what we’re saying to the younger ones, to enjoy the week. I don’t think I’ll be having another 10 years! They don’t come around that quickly, so it’s great to be back and obviously to represent Thomas Davis in a [senior] final as well for the first time, hopefully we can bring it home.”

The road towards the Michael Murphy Perpetual Cup wasn’t exactly plotted out. No major goals. Game by game, step by step, it just opened up. They sat down at the start of the year, reflected on the past and looked to the future. Positives over negatives.

“We just wanted to make sure that we enjoyed going out and playing football. Last year, we didn’t play well and we didn’t enjoy it. We wanted to focus that we could be happy with ourselves at the end of the day, and thankfully, that’s paid off.”

A stiff challenge lies ahead against 2019 and 2020 finalists Crokes under Friday Night Lights, a new-look, all-southside final in store with seven in-a-row champions Foxrock-Cabinteely exiting the race in the quarter-final.

“We obviously know Foxrock have been really good the last few years. We’ve gotten some beatings from them. But going into the semi-final, it was four different semi finalists and that gave all of us a real want to get into that final, to get our hands on the trophy that has been with FoxCab, that definitely spurred us on as well.”

So, too, has the good buzz around the club, the Thomas Davis men’s team motoring nicely, and also facing Crokes in their Dublin senior semi-final.

With each and every word Carey utters, you can sense how much she’s enjoying it all, both on and off the pitch.

olwen-carey Carey on the ball for Dublin in 2021. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

She laughs that the team are spending too much time together and will “probably be sick of each other in two weeks,” and is delighted to have the returning Siobhán McGrath, a great for club and county and 2019 Footballer of the Year, back in the fold.

“Ah, you know McGrath,” she beams. “She’s just a workhorse, she just always wants to get out on the pitch. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to play club championship last year so she was itching to get out again.

“She’s captain this year, and I’m vice captain so it’s been great getting to work with her and for the two of us to play with club. Once we got into the semi-final, she was like, ‘I’ll have to get there.’ And you know her, she was flying the other day! She was running past me, I was like, ‘God, McGrath, you never stop making us look bad!’”

Carey herself is of the same ilk, an athletic, powerful player, impressive as a midfielder or a half-back. She won All-Irelands with Dublin in 2017, ’18 and ’19.

She stepped away in 2020 to focus on her studies as an accountant, returned for 2021 when the five in-a-row bid fell short to Meath, and was again absent in 2022.

“Sometimes it’s the drive, you need to make sure that’s there, especially playing with county, and I suppose for me this year, it was full focus on club and I’ve been delighted to be back,” the 26-year-old says. “It’s great to play with people that you’re playing with for years.

“There’s a few of us back now and we’re focused on club, so for us it’s been great — and getting to the final this year as well, it’s just nice to be back playing with your club. We have great support in our club in ladies football, so it’s been great to be back.”

When removed from the Dublin set-up, she’s watched on from the outside, attending their games and September’s All-Ireland final between Meath and Donegal, the Sky Blues’ quarter-final conquerors.

“Obviously you do feel it a little bit when they lose because you obviously want them to win. You’ve played with those girls so you know how upsetting it is and how much work that they’ve put in throughout the year. You do feel it a little bit more but I think this year, I was probably watching it more from a supporter and a fan [point of view] and hoping that they can go on and and hopefully next year, they can go on as well.”

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olwen-carey-and-emer-sweeney Proud sponsors of the Dublin GAA Club Championships Go-Ahead Ireland hosted a media event with Olwen Carey of Thomas Davis and Emer Sweeney of Kilmacud Crokes, pictured ahead of Friday’s Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Ladies Football Club Championship final taking place in Parnell Park at 7.30pm. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The big question. What about a Dublin return for 2023? “I haven’t really thought about that yet. That’s a few months away that they might be coming back. But at the moment, it’s just really been about club for me. We’ll have to see.”

Having finished up her most recent job at an accounting firm the other day, she’s happy to be fully concentrated on Friday and looking forward to a break thereafter.

Balancing everything can be difficult, she nods, but she won’t complain, preferring to play tribute to her long-serving clubmates who have been “keeping the fort” through the years. Demands on players are ever-increasing at both club and county, she agrees.

“There’s times it can be a bit tough. It’s trying to keep juggling everything, but I’ve gotten used to it over the last few years. Sometimes you kind of have to let some things go and then work on other things, depending on time and the importance of each one as well.

“Just playing back with the club full-time this year, it’s definitely constantly raising and increasing, especially in Division One. I mean, we’re playing against Crokes and they’re really setting the standard this year. It’s definitely pushing us. We just probably turned the dial a bit more this year, as I said, we weren’t too happy where we were last year with the relegation battle so we wanted to turn that around.”

So far, so good.

Time to shine.

Olwen Carey of Thomas Davis was speaking ahead of Friday’s Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Ladies Football Club Championship final taking place in Parnell Park at 7.30pm.

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Emma Duffy

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