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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 13 December, 2018

'It's like being broken up with three years in a row in September' - Dublin finally land title

After three consecutive final losses, Dublin got the job done in the 2017 decider.


AND AT LAST they got to carry the trophy to the Dublin dressing-room on All-Ireland final day.

On the Gaelic football landscape, Dublin are the figure that towers above all else. Silverware and plaudits come their way in a steady stream.

In stark contrast the Dublin ladies football team have had to travel a tougher road, Three All-Ireland deciders between 2014 and 2016, three defeats by an aggregate margin of four points, each reversal generating enough agony to make for hard winters for their players to put down.

But they persevered and kept going and yesterday in Croke Park was a form of deliverance.

Sinead Finnegan and Sinead Goldrick celebrate at the final whistle Sinead Finnegan celebrates yesterday's win with Sinead Goldrick. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

They grasped the Brendan Martin Cup after a 12-point victory over Mayo, a late spree of goals adding some gloss to the scoreboard on a day when they were the undisputed masters.

It was only Dublin’s second All-Ireland title and a bunch of this team were not involved back in 2010.

For Sinead Finnegan spending time in the school of hard knocks means she will appreciate this triumph.

“Is it relief? Yeah, relief is the overwhelming feeling,” she offered underneath the Hogan Stand afterwards.

“We’ve been here so many times. Losing is the most heartbreaking feeling ever.

“It’s like being broken up with three years in a row in September, you’ve been dumped and you’re very sad.

“Just to finally get over the line, it’s absolutely amazing and we couldn’t have done it with a better bunch of girls. These are like 31 of your best friends. It’s just brilliant.”

Sinead Finnegan and Denise McKenna celebrate Sinead Finnegan and Denise McKenna celebrate Dublin's victory. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Finnegan’s vantage point for this Dublin victory had not been the one she envisaged. She damaged her calf last weekend in training and knew the risk in starting, trying to detail Mayo’s danger forward Cora Staunton and hoping she could survive the match.

Instead she realised early her day was done and after limping off in the 19th minute, had to adjust the role of watching on.

“When you’re on the pitch, you can kind of control what’s happening but when you’re on the sideline, all you can do is use your voice.

“It’s a very different perspective and one that I wasn’t really used to. I actually felt sick during the match.

“At one stage I was considering going inside and watching it from inside because it’s just so hard to watch.

“But the girls did brilliant and the girls that came on – Sarah and Hannah and Fiona and Dee – they all made an unbelievable impact into the game and they were brilliant.

“It’s not about me, it’s about everyone,. Thank God we got the win.”

The memories of those past final losses have stayed with Finnegan but her faith never wavered that this team would complete their task in an All-Ireland final.

“It doesn’t go away – it’s still there. I know today will probably make up for it but something like that doesn’t go away.

“It is something you’d be thinking of. You’ve experienced that hurt and you know exactly what it feels like and you don’t want the girls on team feeling like that again.

“You do whatever you can to ensure that your friends don’t feel like that because it’s a really shit feeling.

“I thought we had a slow enough start – we were still creating goal chances but we weren’t finishing. I was like ‘we’re still going to get there, we’re still going to there, we just need to keep creating those chances’.

“Then after about ten or 15 minutes of the second half, the girls just really stood up and goal chances became goals. I did think there was an All-Ireland in us, and hopefully a few more as well.”

The arrival of a new manager at the helm coincided with a change in Finnegan’s role in 2017, stationed at the edge of the square to guard the house instead of playing at the heart of the defence at number six.

Mick Bohan sold her the idea of playing full-back and she grew accustomed to it.

Mick Bohan and Noelle Healy celebrate Dublin boss Mick Bohan celebrates with Noelle Healy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Initially I was a bit wary about it but look, getting a starting jersey in an All-Ireland final is stuff that people will live their life and never experience.

“If he’d played me in goals, I would have been happy to go in. It didn’t really matter as long as I was starting so full-back, I actually like playing there, I’m used to it at this stage.

“What did he bring? Belief, I suppose, for starters. Everything that we did was consistent, if we did one drill once, we did it 100 times.

“I know everyone’s aware of Mick’s work with his basic skills. If you’re doing the basics right, you’ll have the ball longer than anyone else.”

Hanging on to a three-point advantage in the finale, they made that possession count when it mattered.

Dublin rattled the net three times in front of Hill 16 late on to confirm victory.

This is a success that they will toast.

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Fintan O'Toole

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