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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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The influence of a Grand Slam-winning captain, the loss of a Dublin star and the bid for All-Ireland glory

Sarah Murphy leads Clontarf into battle in Parnell Park on Saturday evening.

IT WAS A case of fifth time lucky for Sarah Murphy and her Clontarf side this year.

sarag Clontarf captain Sarah Murphy. Source: Sportsfile.

Now one step — or 60 minutes of football or so — away from All-Ireland glory, this time last year they had lost three Dublin intermediate championship finals in-a-row.

She was also there for the loss in 2011 too, one of the youngest involved. Each and every time they reached the county final, they thought they’d get over the line. As favourites, everyone did.

But injuries, bad decisions and other factors meant that just didn’t happen. Four Dublin decider losses out of five.

Until this year.

Boosted by some new additions and the notion that they simply could not lose another county final, they finally made the breakthrough when they beat Cuala and secured their passage to the Leinster championship.

Provincial glory followed to cancel out the years of hurt and heartbreak and now they find themselves in an All-Ireland final, facing Monaghan and Ulster kingpins Emmet Óg on Saturday. 

“Every step we have won is such an honour for our club and for our teammates and we just take each step as it comes,” Murphy, the team’s captain, smiled in Croke Park this afternoon, looking back through the years.

“How we got through it was, we couldn’t lose another one. And then, we lost another one! And then next year, we couldn’t lose again because we were the strong team and the teams we’ve played, we’ve beaten many times before.”

It’s clear as day that this Clontarf team are a real tight-knit bunch. Players from around the country — the likes of Cavan, Cork and Galway — who are working and studying in Dublin have come on board, along with girls from a nearby club that folded.

Some serious underage talent has come through with the likes of Murphy’s 18-year-old cousin Niamh Hetherton pulling the strings in midfield while former Ireland soccer international and Dublin All-Ireland winner Siobhan Killeen has fully bought into Gaelic football this year.

Fiona Coghlan celebrates after the game Fiona Coghlan at the 2014 World Cup. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

They’re also boosted by the influential presence of Grand Slam-winning captain Fiona Coghlan.

“She’s great and this year she’s stepped into a sort of management [role],” Murphy continues. “She still trains with us and when you hear her voice, you’re gonna get to the line, she’s brilliant.

“She’s such an inspiration for the younger girls and young girls like to talk, but when Fi Coghlan’s around you don’t talk. I would be there saying ‘be quiet’ but sometimes they don’t listen to you.

“The girls are unbelievable. Sometimes you just have to shake each other — we’re just so lucky to have all these girls. No one’s like, ‘Oh, I should be there in front of her.’

“The thing is, everyone is so good. If you’re on the bench, you can’t complain.Who are you going to step in for? Everyone is so unbelievable and everyone wants to be on that pitch.”

While this group is really special and Murphy is really enjoying this year leading them into battle, there’s one missing piece to the puzzle.

They lost Dublin forward Sarah McCaffrey earlier this year as she headed for New Zealand. A sister of Jack, McCaffrey starred in Mick Bohan’s side’s All-Ireland final win in 2017 as she hit two crucial goals from the bench to seal victory over Mayo.

Murphy and McCaffrey have been close, both friendship and age-wise, as they grew up playing football together. Still in regular contact, she’s being kept well in the loop with everything happening on home soil.

“She would have been our best player and a good friend of mine so it’s a tough one,” Murphy, who also plays basketball for Killester/Malahide continues.

“Her Dad [Noel] would have been with us last year and everyone thought he was going to get us over the line because he’s such a good coach. He just had us running like there was no tomorrow and we put it up to all the senior teams.

Sarah McCaffrey celebrates scoring McCaffrey in last year's All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Not having her this year is sort of bitter sweet. That’s how I feel so I can’t imagine how she feels… She has been in touch with me but I think the time difference over there is so massive. Some of the girls would know her but not as much [as I would].

“She would have went in May. So some of them wouldn’t have got to know her as well as myself. I try to keep her in the loop but also, I don’t want to be like, ‘We won again!’ Just to let her know that I’m still thinking of her and we miss her.”

As conversation evolves, Murphy explains that the Dublin senior championship trophy is pretty close to her heart. It’s named after her late uncle, Micheál Murphy. “It’s be unbelievable to win it some day,” she smiles as she dares to dream.

Promoted to those ranks for 2019 and at the rate they’re going at the minute, it most definitely won’t be too far from their reach in the coming years.

But for now, Murphy, a Special Needs Assistant in St Canice’s Boys’ School in Fingals, insists that their attention is on one match only.

Emmett Óg in Parnell Park on Saturday night.

But that said, the focus will be on themselves. On Clontarf.

And she can vouch for that ahead of anyone.

“People were asking, ‘What do we know about them?’ Personally, myself, before the Tinahely game [in Leinster], everyone was saying this, that and the other. I had my first ever panic attack — I’d never had a panic attack in my life — just before we were going out. I couldn’t play the game in the end.

“From my point view, I don’t know about anyone else, just for my own sake – it didn’t go across the whole team – I don’t want to know about the other team. I’m so confident in my team and our ability to just go out and play our own game.

“We don’t need to look at them, we just need to look at ourselves. We’re just gonna look at ourselves and how we’re gonna get better.”

capt Captains at today's media launch.

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Emma Duffy

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