Two weeks after Dublin’s men reclaimed the Sam Maguire, the county’s women footballers today did the LGFA equivalent by winning back the Brendan Martin Cup. They were full value for their All-Ireland win this afternoon, their sixth one ever in what was the 50th LGFA national final, as they saw off Kerry by 0-18 to 1-10 in front of a crowd of just over 45,000 at Croke Park.
On TG4’s match commentary, the word brú invariably features prominently. Right from the throw-in today, Dublin went after Kerry, applying pressure all over the pitch and this hard-working approach – which captain Carla Rowe pointed to in her after-match interview – was the bedrock for their success.
Kerry haven’t tasted an LGFA All-Ireland victory in thirty years but having dethroned back-to-back champions Meath on the way to today’s decider they were warm favourites to land their twelfth title today. But it was clear from early on that they were in bother in this one, with their star turn up front Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh well shacked in the opening half, while Dublin largely controlled the middle third and put a real squeeze on the Kerry kickout.
Hannah Tyrell has excelled at both rugby and soccer as well as Gaelic football but, hunting her first All-Ireland medal, she had the look of a woman on a mission today. In a Player of the Match performance she shot eight first half points, four of them from play, as Dublin went in at the break seven to the good.
Kerry started the second half brighter but then a third quarter surge saw Dublin extend their lead to nine points. When Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh – now a real handful up front – pawed the ball to the net for the game’s only major, it gave the Kingdom renewed hope but in truth the score had come too late and Dublin were relatively comfortable in how they closed out the win.
As both manager Mick Bohan and skipper Carla Rowe acknowledged afterwards, an All-Ireland title was the furthest thing from the team’s minds when the panel assembled before Christmas. With an influx of new players since the glory days, the main aim for 2023 was to make the county competitive again and there was no real expectation of national glory this year.
Dublin’s success today – coming in the wake of Meath’s bolt from nowhere when they made the breakthrough in 2021 – shows how it’s possible in LGFA to emerge without warning from the pack and claim a national title. That said, Kerry’s second successive final defeat – and, be in no doubt, this is a fine Kerry team – shows that the final step can also be a perilous one.
Seen through a Mayo lens, we can be happy enough after this year that we’re not that far off the top in the women’s game. There’s another level, of course, for us to reach if we’re to compete for glory but, after all the solid work put in over the past three years, with further hard work and perseverance there’s no reason Mayo can’t go toe-to-toe at the highest level in the coming years. Which means, of course, that the decision on who’ll succeed Michael Moyles as manager is such a crucial one.
Speaking of managers, congrats to Diane O’Hora who was on the line for Kildare at HQ today as they tasted All-Ireland success in the Intermediate final. They looked well in charge at half-time against Clare but the Banner women struck for two goals in the second half, which meant the Lilies were hanging on for dear life at the end, winning by a single point.
For Diane, it’s now All-Ireland glory as both a player and a manager. It’s an achievement she can be rightly proud of and it provided a nice Mayo angle to the day’s events at Croke Park, on an afternoon where the curtain came down on this year’s inter-county action.