JUST one hour of football now stands between Dublin’s ladies and a four in-a-row and the manner of their defiant victory over Armagh in an absorbing TG4 senior championship semi-final underlined why.
The gutsy Orchard women were level with them (2-7 apiece) half-way through after disrupting their short kick-outs with spectacular effect.
The defending champions had also lost totemic forward Sinead Aherne to injury by the break though the game tipped back their way in the third quarter when they were awarded a penalty which saw Armagh’s excellent full-back Clodagh McCambridge sin-binned.
In Aherne’s absence Carla Rowe stepped up to expertly slot it and they pushed on to go five clear.
Armagh, a woman and five points down, could have wilted then but kept putting it up to them and one of Aimee Macken’s trademark spectacular goals left just three points between the sides with 12 minutes to go.
Yet Dublin also refused to wilt, hunting in packs and showing all their experience to play ‘keep ball’ in the dying minutes after a Rowe free and a point from substitute Kate Sullivan sealed a victory that earned them their seventh All-Ireland final appearance in-a-row.
This was a game worthy of final status; end-to-end, full of dramatic scores and collisions and never-say-die defending from both sides that also underlined why the Jackies are so hard to beat.
The game ostensibly swung on Armagh’s yellow card but also showcased all of Dublin’s depth and experience.
Nicole Owens, wearing 23, was a surprise starter in her first game since a torn cruciate in 2019 and her palmed goal in the fourth minute was a fairytale return.
Five minutes later the rangey St Sylvester’s star provided the assist for Rowe to rattle the net again, and the manner in which the The Naul flier subsequently stepped seamlessly into Aherne’s shoes, finishing on 2-4, underlined the vastness of their talent.
They had eight scorers, including 0-3 from play from Noelle Healy and two more from remarkable 16th season veteran Lyndsey Davey.
Lauren Magee and Sinead Goldrick’s tireless running and tackling also stood out and All-Star Niamh McEvoy and Clontarf star Siobhan Killeen coming off the bench illustrated the vast range of talent at Mick Bohan’s fingertips.
Killeen, like Owens, was also making her comeback after a cruciate.
Yet even their quick recoveries are outdone by Aimee Macken who, side-lined by the same injury last year, took her championship total to 5-17 with another fantastic 2-4 tally.
Her sister Blaithin was just as impressive, wearing six but driving forward at every opportunity and, with Caroline O’Hanlon also orchestrating midfield, Armagh demonstrated why they are serious contenders again at the top table.
Ronan Murphy’s side contributed equally to a brilliant game, recovering smartly from coughing up those early goals with boundless work-rate and a 14th minute penalty that Magee conceded and Macken earned and scored.
After the water-break their impressive orange wave suddenly pressed up relentlessly to cause havoc on Ciara Trant’s short kick-outs.
Winning five of the next seven was vital to them actually pulling a point clear just before half-time after Shauna Grey launched a counter-attack to yield Aoife McCoy’s cracking 27th minute goal followed by a long-distance boomer from Blaithin Macken, though Healy noticeably grabbed an equaliser just as the mid-way hooter sounded.
The sin-bin cost Armagh dearly but the sight of the Sinead Goldrick clapping Dublin’s subs’ warm-down afterwards also summarised the sort of indefatigable teamwork and spirit that defeated them.