herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

denise held whole world in her hands

Former captain of Jackies was a class teacher, on and off the pitch

LIKE her entrance, she stepped quietly away from the stage.

It's strange these days looking at the Dublin team-sheet and not seeing the name of Denise Masterson.

Yet her name will be embedded in Dublin GAA history for evermore.

The first Dublin captain to hold aloft the Brendan Martin Cup.

And she was a central figure in that triumph back in 2010 when the Jackies produced a master-class to defeat Tyrone in Croke Park.

In the minutes after that game, Denise, with the sweat still on her brow, was downstairs underneath the Hogan Stand thanking everybody she could think of that helped Dublin achieve the success.

Top of that list has always been her family.

SUPPORT

And now that the boots are resting under the stairs, the appreciation for all their support and the encouragement runs deeper than ever.

Denise came quite late to football.

She ambled down to Ballymun Kickhams. The idea was to keep fit during the basketball off-season.

But she was liking the game too much to leave it behind. And she was too good a player to let go.

Not only for her ability, but also for her leadership skills.

She believed in the Ron Greenwood dictum - simplicity is genius.Denise played in the engine room. Happy amid the traffic of Central Station.

She was always on the threshold of the play, making herself available to receive a pass and linking the play. Keeping the train on the track.

The vast majority of her passes were short and sharp.

She invited possession, on good days and bad.

And there were some bad days. The hardest of all was being left off the Dublin squad with her All-Star colleague, Siobhan McGrath. But, like all the great champions, Denise, and indeed Siobhan, were back bouncing in the ring.

Siobhan was one of her favourite footballers.

Denise admired those with industry.

That was the attitude that mirrored herself. And that's why the presence of the Mearnóg maestro was so crucial as the Jackies eventually reached the Promised Land.

They had come close before. Mick Bohan led them to their first final in 2003. Mayo denied them on the bell.

John O'Leary was the manager the following season. Galway's commanding second half display saw them prevail.

Five years later, Dublin returned to Croke Park.

This time Cork won by a point. As the final minutes ticked down, they protected their lead with all the assurance of the Harlem Globetrotters. The lesson wasn't lost on Denise.

And so there she was, twelve months later, back in the boiler room making sure that Dublin got on the ball and didn't waste it.

As always, she kept it neat and tidy.

Making sure the hall door was closed behind her before she'd wander up the garden.

She was an inspirational figure to all the young players that came onto the Dublin squad. She played the game without any fanfare. No trumpet blast.

Last September in the minutes after the All-Ireland final, she hid her deep disappointment to paint a positive picture for the future of the Dublin team. The bus would go on without her.

And that was her greatest strength - Denise, always the team player.

Dublin were lucky to have the girl with the basketball hands.

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