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Saturday 16 December 2017

Skipper Sinead doesn't want to finish on losing note as Dubs face final test

Sinéad Aherne knows the Dublin team won’t lack motivation
Sinéad Aherne knows the Dublin team won’t lack motivation

Kathleen Colreavy is the Godmother of the Dublin ladies senior footballers. She has been there for all the days. Sunshine and rain.

She's also the heartbeat of Naomh Mearnóg. And many years ago, she spotted Sinéad Aherne playing schools football.

"I think Kathleen passed my name on somewhere along the way," explains Sinéad.

"Mick (Bohan) came out to look at a club game, and on it went from there."

Suddenly, Sinéad found herself in the Dublin squad.

It was the summer of 2003. "I just went quietly about my business and then I found myself playing in an All-Ireland final," she recalls.

She'll never forget it. "I came on as a sub. It was a pretty dirty day. It was a low-scoring affair."

Mayo won with a late, late goal. "I remember the physicality of it. The step-up to senior level was a massive jump. And I wouldn't be the biggest anyway! My shirt was probably hanging off me! It was like a cauldron out there. The fierce competitiveness of it. That is my main memory of the day."

The celebrated five-time All-Star has played in five more All-Ireland finals since. 2010 was the best of them all. She had the game of her life. The Jackies won the All-Ireland.

And even the Pope, Jimmy Keaveney, added his blessing to her magnificent performance against Tyrone - 2-7, three frees.

She's kept producing that excellence, season in, season out. Sprinkling the League and Championship arenas with gold. And such humility. Then the thought of taking a break to travel kept bouncing in her head.

"I always had it in my mind to have a break. I had never done a J1 when I was at college or anything like that," she added.

Stay

"I kept putting it off. Next year, next year. In 2014, a group of my friends left for the summer, but I decided to stay and give it one more year.

"Then I said that regardless of how things went in 2014, I was going to take the next year out.

"It was nice to do something different, career-wise and everything. It gave me that break, and that freshness."

Sinéad is an accountant. She'd need a few calculators to tally all the scores she has hit for Dublin and St Sylvester's.

She has been one of Dublin's greatest players. Last September brought another All-Ireland final defeat. "Every season you reassess where you are. Winter is grim anyway," she muses.

"I gave a lot of thought to it over Christmas. Having met Mick (Bohan), I didn't want to step away this year. I didn't want to finish on a losing note." The boss man was thrilled. "We gave Sinéad her Championship debut back in 2003," says Mick.

"She is a phenomenal leader for this team. Her performances this year have been the best of her career. She's moving so well."

Mayo have their own superstar - Cora Staunton. "She has been one of the stand-out ladies footballers across a couple of generations," relates Sinéad.

"She has helped to increase the profile of ladies football and women's sport. She has been a great servant to the game."

The Dubs and Mayo provided a cracker in last year's semi-final. Sinéad's late, dramatic free decided it.

She said "No doubt, that loss will be a big motivation for them coming back this year, but we are not short of motivation ourselves.

"Looking back on what happened in last year's final is not going to help us. It's all about learning and improving on that display," declares the skipper.

No Cork on the other side of the tunnel this time. "Cork have been the standard-bearers, but there was never much between Cork and ourselves in the last few years.

"We'll concentrate on our performance now . A one point win is all we need."

Just like that Breffni belter of a semi-final.

But without the pressure of that match-winning putt!

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