'She's so far ahead of everyone else' - Dublin's All-Ireland and AFLW champion

Sinéad Goldrick etched her name into history in 2022.

THE CONVERSATION FLOWED effortlessly as two Dublin greats shared the pitch for the very first time. They were opponents on this occasion, but there was hardly a second of silence.

One of Sinéad Goldrick’s many questions stand out from the underage club game.

What’s your star sign?

goldie The Gold Standard: Sinéad Goldrick has etched her name into history forever more. Inpho Sports / PA Images. Inpho Sports / PA Images. / PA Images.

Noelle Healy, her long-time team-mate and friend, can’t help but laugh when she remembers their first meeting at the age of nine, many moons before the pair were both multiple All-Ireland winners and All-Stars.

“I first met Goldie at an U10s match,” Healy tells The42

“I remember this little one standing beside me, and just non-stop chatting in my ear. I came off the pitch and my Dad was fuming with me. He was like, ‘You spent the whole game just talking to your marker!’

“She’d be chatting to you one minute and then the next minute, she’d come through the back of your legs.”

Pat Ring’s earliest memories of the history-making All-Ireland and AFLW winner are similar. He reckons his first experience of ever seeing her was in 2000; Goldrick playing for the Cabinteely U10s and Ring a parent on the sidelines at the Dublin championship final defeat to Fingallians at St Margaret’s.

“It was a horrific winter’s day,” her former club manager recalls. “The ball went into a ruck. Everyone ended up fighting for the ball in the middle of the pitch, as U10s do. But of course, Sinéad came out with the ball.

“I remember standing on the sideline with other parents and people that I knew and we were absolutely gobsmacked at this. Even for her size and her stature, she was probably the best player on the pitch.”

That’s something that always struck Healy through their younger years, too. They crossed paths several times after that first meeting, through athletics as well as football.

They got to know each other properly as team-mates for the Dublin U14s.

“If you look at pictures of Goldie pre-18, she’s a tot like. She’s tiny. But she was always such a brilliant defender, a really good tackler. She’s unbelievably tenacious.

sinead-goldrick On the ball for Dublin in 2007. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“Every year, it was always the same. People would be like, ‘Sinéad was brilliant this year, but I think she’ll probably be too small now for next year.’ She just always came back and was always one of the best defenders that we had. She obviously just became such a powerful athlete then through her twenties.”

Ring witnessed that development and growth first-hand, given the fact he worked with her from such a young age at Foxrock-Cabinteely. (He and Goldrick hailed from the latter club; himself and her father, Seamus, going on to play key roles in the merger.) He’s conscious to mention the endless other coaches she has worked with through the years, a special word given to the current Fox-Cab management team and their work since he retired in 2019.

But the Cork native coached her from 2005, so is perhaps best placed to map her rise.

Goldrick was a “huge leader” and a “big, big driving force” from Féile to the club’s first Dublin U16 and Minor A championships titles, constantly “taking ownership” as Fox-Cab fielded their first adult team in ’07 and soared through the grades from Junior E to eventual All-Ireland senior club heavyweights.

“You could see from an early age that she had something special,” Ring smiles. 

Some recurring themes arise speaking to Ring and Healy, among others: Goldrick’s phenomenal work-rate and appetite for training, her ability to push through the pain barrier, her steely determination and will to win at all costs.

“She pushed her body to an absolute extraordinary limit,” Ring explains. “She’s an incredible athlete, but on top of that then, she’s a really lovely person.”

“She is the nicest, softest person off the pitch, but then on the pitch, I’d say if you asked anybody who would be the toughest trainer, it’d be her,” Healy adds. “She would be the one screaming at you [for] not going around the cones, that type of stuff.

sinead-goldrick-and-noelle-healy-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Goldrick and Healy have been team-mates and great friends through the years. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“I remember before an All-Ireland final, her screaming at me one time — ‘You need to hit me harder!’ getting ready for a match. We’d kill each other on the pitch a lot of the time. 

“It’s phenomenal how far she was able to push her body — even with the amount of injuries that she’s had and setbacks personally that she’s been able to overcome. She comes across as a very light-hearted person when you meet her, but I think mentally, she’s probably one of the strongest people that I know.”

Both use certain stories to hammer those points home and paint a full picture. Ring revisits two separate county senior championship finals, 2012 and 2019.

’12 was Fox-Cab’s first appearance in the top-flight showpiece, Na Fianna were the opposition and the game hung in the balance at half time in Parnell Park. The players had a few minutes to themselves in the dressing room, before management joined.

“When we went in, we noticed that Sinéad was buckled over in pain in the corner,” Ring picks up. “She had cramps in her tummy. We spoke to her and said, ‘Look, you can’t go back on.’

“But she wasn’t having it. She said, ‘No, that’s it. No, no, I’m on. I’m going out.’ And what she did in the second half was absolutely extraordinary and we eventually won.

“But it subsequently transpired that she had to get some procedure done the following week. That was the nature of her.”

’19 brought a similar triumph over adversity. Another tight game, themselves and Kilmacud Crokes eventually going to extra-time. Management were unaware, but Golrick had taken a knock to her hand in the first half. 

“She played on, didn’t make a fuss of it and she put in an unmerciful block late in the game, when the game was level.

“It turned the game, we eventually won it, but it transpired she broken a bone in her hand in the first half of the game and again, played through it.

“That’s the type of person you’re dealing with.”

foxrock-cabinteely-v-carnacon-lgfa-all-ireland-senior-club-championship-semi-final Pat Ring and Goldrick after the 2016 All-Ireland club semi-final. Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Healy also recalls broken bones in a junior club match. “She’d throw her head in everywhere. She went in for one tackle and came out with a broken jaw and a broken wrist. Sure that didn’t put her off, she was still trying to play the next week. Tough as nails.

“She just has so much heart. She’s a very principled person, in terms of if she believes in something, she’ll stand for it to the hilt. 

“When you’re on your team, you know that she has your back 100%. But it’s funny then, when she plays against her team-mates…Fiona Claffey [of Fox-Cab] whenever we were playing Westmeath, or me when we’d be playing Brigid’s v Fox-Cab. If you were going to do something to hurt her team, she was coming at you.”

Ring compliments her ability to “impeccably” balance her club and county commitments through the years, often resisting Fox-Cab’s wish to “wrap her up in cotton wool”.

“The amount of time she gives to younger players in the club,” he adds. “We’d often get a request from the club: could the senior players come down and help out with the nursery on a Saturday, or present medals to the underage teams. She’d be there first.”

Obviously that challenge has heightened since the AFLW came calling, as she splits her life across opposite sides of the world and does her utmost to keep all plates spinning, 

Goldrick and fellow Dubliner Niamh McEvoy signed for Melbourne in October 2019, and they headed Down Under for pre-season shortly after the club season finished up.

Goldie with a freshly-repaired hand after surgery.

“That made it quite difficult when she first got here with her kicking,” Melbourne AFLW list manager Todd Patterson notes.

“That probably slowed her progress down a little bit. But once she got it…she has an insane appetite to get better. She does so many extra sessions with Mick [Stinear, head coach]. And I’m pretty sure she does extra we don’t know about. I quite often see her car in the car park here.”

aflw-demons-kangaroos Facing Vikki Wall in November. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

Healy had mixed emotions as Goldrick and McEvoy headed for Oz. Delighted for them as a friend — particularly the former who “always had that travel bug,” having been in Thailand in 2010 when Dublin won their first All-Ireland — but sad as a team-mate.

“I expected her to absolutely thrive,” the 2017 Footballer of the Year assures. “I don’t know too much about Aussie Rules, but from what I can see, you need to be powerful and fast and she ticks all those boxes. 

“She’s such an infectious person. We always got such a lift whenever she came back from injury or something, just the laughs that she brings. I’d say they were delighted to get her.

“I know they spoke about the Jim Stynes legacy when they went down there and that connection that they wanted to have with Dublin. I think they certainly picked at least one of the right players going over in terms of that attitude.”

On the oval, Goldrick has done serious damage. She has overcome significant injuries to establish herself as a key player for the Dees over the past few seasons, culminating in November’s Grand Final win.

In winning the Premiership alongside Armagh star Blaithin Mackin, she became the first woman to win both an All-Ireland and an Australian Football League title.

The 32-year-old has been a ladies football legend here long before heading Down Under, but that has certainly cemented her legacy on both sides of the world.

“Goldie, obviously being such a heralded player over in Dublin, to just be able to finally break through [in Australia] after lots of little injury setbacks, I was really happy for her,” Patterson nods.

“She’s had an incredible run. We probably don’t fully grasp what she’s done yet. But I’m sure as time passes by, we’ll be really thankful that we’ve had such a special athlete involved.”

sinead-goldrick-celebrates-after-the-game-with-jennifer-dunne Goldrick with her Dublin team-mates. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The expectation is that she’ll continue, with Patterson stating that “all indications from the group are that they are really committed to staying together and pushing to go again”.

Likewise, anything could happen with Dublin, for whom she’s been an exceptional servant for through the years.

“Goldie, you see her list of honours and it’s almost like you wouldn’t expect anything less from her,” Healy beams, her mind likely drifting back to that U10 club game and their first meet.

“In my opinion, she’s so far ahead of everyone else, her standards are higher than all the rest of us, so for her to add that to her already-glittering CV is incredible. 

“She went over, her first season was hampered by Covid, she went over again the next season and she had a horrendous hamstring injury, she went back again.

“I’m sure it was really difficult for her to go over when she went over again and they fell short at the Grand Final, especially after losing the All-Ireland to Meath. We were all saying, ‘She’s not going to come home until she wins that medal.’ And she did. 

“And I’m so, so proud of her.”

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