Glory day for Dublin
Defeating Cork added to great achievement
It was late enough on Sunday evening. The clock was moving towards 8.pm.
Helen O'Rourke stepped onto the Jones's Road. Darkness had just fallen.
Croke Park was a quieter place now. The odd Dublin jersey could still be seen. Delighted to be part of the Jackies' Army.
It had been the most perfect of days. Over 50,000 people came through the turnstiles. Helen's mind must has drifted back to the earlier times.
When that great Kerry team were in their prime. With one of the greatest footballer of them all, Mary Jo Curran.
That '93 side were honoured at HQ on Sunday. When they were winning nine All-Ireland's in a row, there wasn't a big queue for tea at half-time.
But how the landscape has changed. All were talking about the TG4 programme on Saturday night. It came from the Mansion House. It set the scene to a wonderful weekend.
Denise Masterson was back on the box on The Sunday Game. The first woman to lead the Dubs to the All-Ireland title.
Valerie Mulcahy was alongside her. How many times has she broken Dublin hearts.
But, even for Valerie, it wouldn't be too easy to pass city traffic these days.
Dublin defend so well. The emergency response unit is only a shout away. Swarming around danger whenever the red light came on.
On the final whistle, the Dublin players bundled into a scrum on the turf. The Flying Finn, Kyran O'Brien, was first on the scene with his camera. In like Flynn. Pictures that will last a lifetime.
Dublin were worthy winners. It was close and tense for a long way. A compelling debate that held the interest.
But this Dublin team have grown. They have a more assured look now. Last year's All-Ireland win gave them that bottle of confidence. And with a spoonful of confidence, you can walk on water.
Cork players have walked across the Lee for a generation. This season it might have been a case of change at Mallow, but Cork are still Cork.
At times, they were coming at Dublin like the Red Sea. Trying to engineer an opening. That took some effort.
Indeed, both sets of forwards had to graft and toil like miners to chisel an opportunity. The tackling was so good. The blocking. The intensity of it all had the audience enthralled.
In the end, it came down to inches. As memorable duels usually do.
As David Coleman always said, 'goals pay the rent.' And Carla Rowe got two of them.
Her club, Clann Mhuire, held a banner up in her honour. The Dublin Ladies Football Chairman, Joe Keane, is a Clann Mhuire man.
So is Gerry Barrett, who won the Dublin Senior Football Championship with Erin's Hope. Gerry played for Galway. He has coached a million kids in the North County. Including Carla.
After the game, Carla came into the Press Room and reflected on her display. She revealed the advice she was given.
"I was told to keep on working hard, and that's what I tried to do."
Simple, priceless advice. To keep going. To keep chasing the leafs blowing in the wind.
The Dublin captain, Sinéad Aherne, praised Carla's industry.
"She has been getting those goals all year. We kept saying to her to keep getting into those positions and the chances will come.
"Carla is someone who puts in so much work, and is so patient. And it paid off for her."
As the drama unfolded, the Cork manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, looked on, arms folded. He played for Nemo and Cork.
"I have been around sport long enough to recognise an honest performance. And that's what you got out there," he said.
His captain, Ciara O'Sullivan, sat beside him. Drenched in disappointment. He put his arm around her shoulder.
"I couldn't be prouder of this group of girls," he said. "They left everything out there. We couldn't have asked for more. We are a young team. And we will be back."
There's nothing surer.
During the hour, Mick Bohan was wired for sound as he watched on the sideline in front of the Hogan Stand.
The joy on his face told the story of the result afterwards. And of his admiration for Cork.
To beat the great Cork added another feather in Dublin's cap. A bit like Dublin men beating Kerry. It adds an extra helping of cream.
"And that's because of the great tradition of Cork football. Of what they have done for the game. Of the way they lifted the standard of ladies football," remarked Mick.
"We have the utmost respect for Cork. Beating the standard bearers was really important for this group."
In his programme notes, Mick talked about the game. And of the hope to produce a performance. To produce your best. To leave it all behind you.
If you do that, and even if the result is not in your favour, you can't do anymore.
And that's what these two marvellous teams did. "The players went for every ball. And that's the way they like to play the game," mused Mick. "That's the way the sport should be played."
Both managers complimented the referee, Garryowen McMahon. And the players too. He let the play flow. And that added so much to the entertainment.
With Gary on the whistle, there was no stop and go system. He refereed in Dublin for many years, and all know of his quality. And he gave one of the most outstanding All-Ireland final performances.
Before the off, Willie Lillis was sitting upstairs having a cup of tea with Mick Hanley. They would be doing the game for Dublin City FM.
Willie guided Dublin to their first Leinster title in 2002. A milestone set in granite.
Mick Bohan was on Willie's management ticket that day in Carlow. Mick has cherished every Leinster crown since. And the All-Ireland's even more. Especially this one.
Dublin v Cork was the final that so many wanted. And once again it was the talk of the nation.
The duo have given so much over the years. This was their fifth All-Ireland final. Another belter of a match.
And here's hoping there will be many more.