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Wednesday 23 August 2017

Olaf's defy the odds in stunning success

Super Saints save best till last to pull off impressive Cup victory

PORTOBELLO were the top club of their era. The All-Blacks of the Leinster Road.

Olaf's also had a wonderful team in that period. And now the daughter of an All-Black has helped them to a most astonishing triumph.

Olaf's played O'Dwyer's in the Division 7 Cup final. O'Dwyer's were going for the treble, having bagged the league and championship.

"We had met them three times already this season," explains Harry O'Crowley, who manages Olaf's with Stephen Murray.

Olaf's lost all of them - by 31 points, 9 points and 14 points.

Yet it was fourth time lucky as Olaf's took the Cup by four points.

"The girls were so determined. We took the lessons from our three previous defeats," said Harry.

"It was a remarkable turn-around. It was the first time O'Dwyer's had been beaten all season."

The game was played in Sandyford. Olaf's won the toss for the choice of venue.

Big crowds lined the sidelines. The atmosphere crackled.

"Both teams gave a wonderful display of scoring," he added.

"It was a tremendous match. A men's final wouldn't have matched it."

The hosts trailed by two points at half-time. Clara O'Sullivan's goal lifted the mood, and then came a vital goal from Giordan Brewer.

Giordan is the daughter of Mike Brewer, the 32-times capped All-Black.

The mercurial Niamh Donnelly was a revelation at centre half-forward. Placing Niamh in the number 11 position was masterful management. She normally operates as a half-back.

Her attitude summed up the resolve of the rest of the team, and she inspired everyone around her.

Olaf's had done their homework. And their focus never dipped.

And having the right mind-set was key, according to Harry.

"The Dublin ladies senior team had help this season from the famous sports physiologist, Gean Paul Gonzales," he said.

"The New York Giants were going nowhere fast, and he is given the credit for turning around their season and they went on to win the Super-bowl.

"He brought in the concept of 'all-in.' It's all about running onto the pitch and crawling off it. We bought into that.

"It doesn't matter who you are playing against. So we decided to go 'all-in, and the girls were just magnificent against O'Dwyer's. It was a phenomenal win."

And the reaction of the Balbriggan club was also magnificent, as Harry relates.

"Their manager, John Joe O'Carroll, is a lovely fella. He's a genuine football man," he said.

"He came over to us afterwards and said they had come out to try and do the treble but that the better team had won.

"O'Dwyer's are a fantastic side. They achieved the double, and they won 20 out of 21 matches this season. They have been the stand-out team of 2014 at our grade.

"They have a big future ahead of them. They have two Dublin captains and a few Dublin players. O'Dwyer's wished us well. They are such nice people."

For his own part, Harry is going back to basics - to the Division 9 squad.

"Things are progressing well here now in ladies football. There's a good juvenile structure, and it is all about keeping the momentum going. This victory is huge for us. And we want to build on it now."

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