Aherne wary of Mayo threat in league final

by James Hendicott
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Captain Sinead Aherne took a measured view ahead of the Ladies National Football League Final at Parnell Park, as Dublin face into a repeat of last year’s All Ireland final in taking on Mayo.

The Dubs narrowly won their first All Ireland since 2010 last September against the Yew County, but victory on Sunday would mark a first ever league title for the Jackies, who last appeared in the final and lost to a dominant Cork side back in 2014.

On paper, with Mayo’s best player Cora Staunton having departed to the world of Aussie rules over the winter, the Dubs probably go into Sunday’s finale as favourites,

But a tight semi-final against Galway – won with a goal by Aherne’s attacking partner and St Sylvester’s Nicole Owens from very nearly the last kick of the game – shows how even things are across the board in the ladies’ game this year. Dublin are counting no chickens.

“Mayo are a very very good team,” Aherne said ahead of the league finale, adding of the loss of Staunton: “Panels change from year to year, theirs has, and so has ours.

“There are players they’ve brought in who are looking to step up, and you have to prepare for the team that’s there. I think they’re a very good squad, regardless of who’s not there from last year.”

As for Dublin, this year has largely been about grinding out results so far.

“I think the Galway game showed a bit of experience,” Aherne said, “in that we managed to stay in the game even though we probably weren’t playing particularly well. They came out of the blocks and scored very early, in the first minute or so, but I think from then on they played the game on our terms. A bit of experience helped us get the points we needed to.”

“There are a lot of contenders out there for an All Ireland, from the top five teams, but also from outside the top division. Tipperary, for example, are looking very good. There wasn’t much in the games across division one, so it seems wide open.”

That’s quite a change following years of Cork dominance, ended only by Dublin’s All Ireland title last time around. The Jackies have definitely seen a bounce since Mick Bohan took over from Greg McGonigle back in 2017, taking their first All Ireland title since 2010 in Bohan’s first year back at the helm, though Aherne believes McGonigle also deserves some of the praise.

“Mick picks on form,” she said of Bohan, “and there’s always a chance he’ll bring someone in from the clubs and introduce them to the side.

“Greg did a lot to bring Dublin football forward and made a huge difference to us. Sometimes you get a bounce with a new manager, a freshness, and Mick knows the club scene – which is really strong now – very well. We’re in a league final, but we haven’t played overwhelmingly well throughout the league, so there’s room to grow.”

As for Sunday’s contest? “It’s not an All Ireland, but it’s a national title, and something we haven’t done before,” Aherne said.

“When you get the opportunity to do it, in front of your own fans, you obviously want to win.

“Winning league titles is a sign of consistency that gives you a springboard into the Championship. We’d love to kick on with that under our belts.”

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