THIS day has been a long time coming for Dublin, so it was fitting that they reserved their best performance of the season to finally get their hands on the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time in their history.
For quite a few members of the panel, this was their fourth appearance in the TG4 All-Ireland senior final, and on each of the previous defeats to Mayo (2003), Galway (2004) and Cork (2009), the Jackies left Croke Park rueing lost opportunities, feeling these were games that they could have won and maybe even should have.
On those occasions they were found wanting and after last year’s agonising one-point loss to the Rebelettes, one wondered if they would ever make it over the line, even though they had resolved to do so.
“I have sympathy with Tyrone because this time last year we had the heartache and we know exactly how they’re feeling,” said Dublin manager Gerry McGill. “We had to sit down and make a decision that we were going to go again full hog. Everyone agreed to toe the line and this is the reward.
“We have 31 players in this squad coming together for the common cause. Their lives have been on hold for Dublin for the last 12 months and I’m very proud of them and what they’ve achieved.”
It didn’t look too good when they lost a Division 1 relegation battle to Tyrone in April and even as they made their way to this final, progress was stuttering.
With Tyrone having accounted for six-in-a-row chasing Cork and a rejuvenated Kerry after a replay, and possessing a forward line that had threats from most angles, their task looked a stiff one again.
Nobody amongst the attendance of 20,750 could have predicted the one-sided nature of the affair though and it was a pity, given the competitive nature of the curtain-raisers.
The championship’s leading scorer Gemma Begley was a peripheral figure throughout, as was Jolene Donnelly and while goal-scoring full-forward Sarah Connolly was an obvious loss, having had to depart the fray with a hand injury in the ninth minute, Tyrone were already struggling by that stage and trailing by three points.
With half-forwards Mary Nevin, Lydsay Peat, Amy McGuinness augmenting the midfield efforts of Denise Masterson and Niamh McEvoy, and even retreating further, Dublin dominated the middle third and it was their inside line of attack that caused havoc.
McGuinness, Lyndsay Davey and Elaine Kelly all looked dangerous but it was Sinéad Aherne who mesmerised. While the full-forward might have been unmarkable in totting up 2-7 (2-3 from play), it was still a surprise that the Tyrone management didn’t switch the normally reliable Maura Kelly off her.
It was McGuinness who struck for the first goal in the 17th minute, finishing well after her first effort had been brilliantly blocked by Kelly and Davey’s follow-up had struck the crossbar.
Exactly 10 minutes later, Aherne rounded Kelly and drew Shannon Lynch before sliding expertly underneath the legs of the diving 17-year-old goalkeeper. At 2-8 to 0-5 at half time, there was no way back for the Red Hands.
The Dubs never relented after the resumption, Aherne finishing a move involving Davey and Kelly to bag her second goal in the 38th minute.
McGuinness, Lyndsay Peat, Ahern and Gemma Fay added points and though Cathy and Jolene Donnelly, and the utterly stymied Begley did raise white flags, the tide was in no way stemmed.
“I think I’m going to cry,” beamed captain Masterson. “It’s fantastic; I’m in a state of shock, I think. We were heartbroken after losing by a point to Cork last year; we were devastated and I sympathise with the Tyrone girls, it’s a horrible place to be.
“I think that gave us the edge. We were never going to lose that game.”
Tyrone will hope that not just like their conquerors, but Tipperary’s hurlers, Cork’s footballers and the ladies footballers of Limerick, they will bounce back from an All-Ireland defeat to win this next year. It will seem a long way away this morning but that must be their aim.
For Dublin a great burden has been lifted and McGill, much like Declan Kidney when Ireland won the rugby Grand Slam last year, remembered past heroes.
“What we said to the girls was to go out and just play, go out and leave nothing in the tank, go out and impose our game on Tyrone and that’s what we did. In the second half they wanted to be ruthless and they certainly were.
“There are several girls that have been playing for Dublin for the last 12 and 14 years and it’s just fantastic that they get their reward today.
“And a special thought for all the Dublin girls that have toiled and worked very hard down through the years and came so close; this is much their All-Ireland as it is ours today.”
Scorers for Dublin: S Aherne 2-7(4fs); A McGuinness 1-3(0-1f); E Kelly, L Davey 0-2 each; L Peat, G Fay 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tyrone: G Begley 0-4(2fs); J Donnelly 0-3(1f); N Murphy, C Donnelly 0-1 each.
Dublin subs: B Finlay for Kelly (46), N Hyland for Nevin (52), N Healy for
McGuinness (56), Niamh McEvoy (St Sylvester’s) for Niamh McEvoy (57), C Barrett for Fay (57).
Tyrone subs: N Murphy for Connolly (inj, 14), R Rafferty for Teague (h/t), O O’Neill for McGahan (44), M Gallagher for M Donnelly (44), C Scullion for O’Kane (56).
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