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Friday 18 January 2019

Jackies claim holy grail

Ruthless Dubs crush Tyrone to put Cork pain behind them and seal first ever senior title

THE Blue Moon shone down on the old town last night.

The Jackies went to the Bewley's Hotel to celebrate. They had the perfect cuppa with them.

The TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship title in the city for the first time.

Fourth-time lucky for the Dubs, who were absolutely magnificent in Croke Park yesterday.

They couldn't have planned a better occasion to produce a 10 out of 10 performance.

Everything went like a Swiss watch. And it was a happy hour the squad and their faithful will never forget.

Tears of joy spilled onto the sod at the end as Dublin did their lap of honour.

Dublin captain, Denise Masterson, was finding it hard to believe that Dublin had, at last, struck gold.

"I am in a state of shock. I just want to cry. I just can't put words on it. It will be so strange waking up as All-Ireland champions," stated the super skipper.

"The girls put their lives on hold for this, and it stood to us in the end. The defeat to Cork last year was a heartbreaker and I think that's what gave us the edge.

"Everything just clicked into place. Everybody played their part and there was no way we were going to let our half-time lead slip."

The Dubs were 2-8 to 0-5 ahead at the break. They were flying from the off.

They attacked the Hill 16 end like there was no tomorrow. There was nobody on the Hill but it was full of colourful flags.

The first attack set the tempo for the hour. Masterson collected the ball like she was to do all day.



Storming

She fed Lyndsey Peat who went on one of her storming runs. She earned a free. Sinead Aherne tapped over. There wasn't even a minute gone.

Dublin drove on from that, and the young Tyrone side, appearing in their first senior final, couldn't get into their stride.

Dublin's collective experience was just too much. They used the ball so well. Simple, tidy passes laced with powerful running ... with and without the ball.

Dublin defended brilliantly. So many of their attacks came from deep. Masterson was linking the play like a charm bracelet.

The kick-outs of goalkeeper, Cliodhna O'Connor, were first class. She found a team-mate everytime. Precision engineering from Ireland's number one.

Sorcha Furlong was so assured at centre half-back. But they all were. And even when the lead was more than a healthy one, Dublin kept foraging as if they were a point behind.

"These girls just work so hard," remarked manager, Gerry McGill, the Donegal diplomat. "When we haven't got the ball, they put in so much effort to get it back.

"And what you do with the ball is so vital. Our forwards were on fire today."

Chief among them was the artful Aherne, a gem of an attacker. She enjoyed herself out on the big front lawn.

"Big players play on the big days and Sinead has pulled games out of the bag for us so many times," added Gerry.

"She's just a marvellous footballer. Absolute quality. Croke Park is the biggest pitch on the planet, so we knew we could use all the space to good effect.



Deadly

"Sinead is deadly in one on one situations. She just drops the shoulder and goes for it or gets a free. She is an outstanding footballer."

Dublin had pedigree in abundance as they sought to banish the final defeats of 2003, 2004 and last year to Cork.

Cork, in securing the five-in-a-row, pipped the Dubs by a point in last year's final. "It took us a long while to get over that," admitted Gerry.

"We then made a decision not to experience it again. Defeat was not an option.

"We thought we had prepared well last year, but we still lost, so we decided to go up a gear for this campaign."

It was the Red Hands who had ended Cork's remarkable run in the quarter-final, but they didn't bring their Sunday best to HQ.

"We know how Tyrone feel. We were in their boots ourselves this time last year. We know all about the heartbreak, but they can use the experience of the day and drive on," mused Denise Masterson.

"We face a long road back after this," reflected Tyrone's manager, Colm Donnelly. "The girls are just devastated.

"To be fair to Dublin, they did their homework. They were on the front foot from the start."

The spectacle was blessed with sunshine. The Dublin attack was blessed with pace.

They were five points to one up after just seven minutes. And the opening goal came in the 20th minute.

Another flowing movement saw Lyndsey Davey rock the bar. Amy McGuinness, the flying Fin, completed the job.

Just before the interval, another of Furlong's charge forward opened the Northern gate and Aherne's finish was like a piece of Malahide pottery.

So nine between them at the tea. Dublin returned to hit the first three points of the restart from McGuinness (2) and Peat.

If any signal was needed, that confirmed that Dublin were on the express train to the Promised Land.

The third goal arrived in the 39th minute. Elaine Kelly, who had a terrific game, slipped the ball to Aherne whose gentle finish would have won the Ryder Cup.

Some people began to leave the stadium. They missed out on some more Dublin poetry and bravery from Tyrone.



Save

Their goalkeeper, Shannon Lynch, is only 18. She made the save-of-the-season from a Peat scorcher.

With victory guaranteed, the Dublin management began to make the changes. Among those to make way were Mary Nevin and Parnells' Niamh McEvoy, a duo who have given so much to the three castles.

Emotional scenes as they greeted the boss-man and colleagues on the sidelines. High-fives all-round. Big Ben was still ticking, but the job was done.

Aherne sent over two more late points and McGuinness, milking the moment, popped over the last score.

Arthur's Day had come and gone. The day of the Jackies will linger for a little while longer.

"I think it might be a long week," smiled Captain Marvel. The teacher has just been part of a Master Class.

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