Like their males counterparts seven days ago, the Mayo ladies this afternoon suffered defeat against Dublin in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Unlike the lads, though, this one didn’t come down to the wire, with three Dublin goals in the final ten minutes pushing their margin of victory out to twelve clear points. Dublin won in the finish by 4-11 to 0-11.
From our perspective, there can be no real complaints about the result. We were on top early on but failed to translate the dominance we enjoyed into scores, never managing to lead Dublin by more than a point at any stage.
When Dublin broke clear for the game’s first goal – scored by Niamh McEvoy after a rapid attacking move – the whole tenor of the contest changed. Dublin now had the upper hand and when the Mayo girls were reduced to thirteen players, goalkeeper Yvonne Byrne and Rachel Kearns ending up in the sin bin on yellow cards, things went from bad to worse.
In fact, it could have been an even more perilous situation for us then, as Byrne’s yellow was for a trip which resulted in a penalty for Dublin. Aisling Tarpey had the unenviable task of facing up to Sinead Aherne’s penalty kick just after coming on but Aherne’s effort from the spot lacked conviction and the sub goalie was equal to it.
The two yellow cards spanned half-time – with Mayo 1-6 to 0-6 in arrears at that stage – and so, until they were back up to their full complement, it was largely a game of containment and doing what they could to prevent Dublin getting out the gate completely. Despite a few close shaves, this they managed to do.
At half-time it was announced that the official attendance was 46,286, smashing to smithereens the previous record attendance at an LGFA final set last year. Today’s attendance was also, by some margin, the biggest at a European women’s sporting event this year.
From half-time until ten minutes from the end the two teams traded points, with Dublin unable to pull clear but our girls equally unable to close the gap any further than the three points that had separated them at the break. But at that stage, we were still in it and Dublin – beaten finalists for the previous three years – started to look slightly rattled.
But then came the decisive breakthrough. We were once more reduced to fourteen – Orla Conlon the player ordered off on yellow this time – and seconds later, Dublin broke through for their second goal. This one was scored by sub Sarah McCaffrey, sister of Jack, who finished emphatically to the net.
The game was up now and further grace notes were added via two late goals. It was cruel on the Mayo girls who’d battled so hard all afternoon but who were simply overwhelmed at the finish.
Like the lads, the final result for the ladies comes at the end of a stirring championship campaign. From the low of losing to Galway in the Connacht final to the high of dethroning long-time champions Cork, the ladies have much to be proud of this year. Today was simply a step too far for them.
It would be churlish too not to mention today’s winners and to note that this victory saw the Dublin ladies, after many disappointments, finally reach their goal. As we so well appreciate, it takes courage to keep coming back year after year following each successive knock-back and they deserve great credit for doing so. Well done to them on their win today.