‘You win a medal or a trophy, but there’s so much more to life… her achievement was bigger than ours’

A WINNING TEAM’S post-match press media briefing is always easier than the losers’.

And a wonderful story or two always comes out of it, this one about a special ball carrier who helped Dublin on their journey to lifting the Brendan Martin Cup once again.

Mick Bohan talks to his team after the game.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Up the Dubs,” three in-a-row winning boss Mick Bohan proclaims as he comes into the room to face the music, a grin on him like a cheshire cat. What a weekend.

And off he goes to give his immediate feelings, basically without a question asked.

“Conditions made it very difficult,” the Clontarf man conceded. “In the women’s game, they obviously don’t have the same distance in the kick as they do in the lads so it makes it more difficult to break it down, particularly obviously the way Galway set-up today.

“Credit to them, they came with a plan, they executed it well and made it extremely difficult for us to spray the ball which is obviously what we try to do, but, Jesus, what a day for characters.

“There were so many scraps won around the field, so many of them on the floor. You just have to be immensely proud of our group after that.”

Happy enough so?

“Isn’t it amazing,” he smiles, before speaking at length about how strange yesterday was trying to avoid the hype surrounding their male counterparts and the Drive for Five they successfully completed. 

We’re involved with the ladies team but at the end of the day, we’re all Dubs. We are obviously immensely proud. What a weekend to be a Dub. To be involved in a GAA family, you bring up your sons and daughters to play the games and within 24 hours of each other, we’ve presented incredible sports heroes to people in this city.

That game was watched on TV but not attended, the entire focus on the job at hand today.

Galway started well, Dublin looked nervous, he says. And he refers back to a swim this morning on which he kept thinking about how unsettled his side had been previously in the summer with injuries and departures, and how, as a result, the pressure of three in-a-row hadn’t crossed his mind. 

With stalwarts Lyndsey Davey (30) and Siobhan McGrath (31) to his right at the top table, Bohan went on to dish out some high praise for the more experienced side of his panel.

“Isn’t it some testament to the older group of our players,” he continued. “That was an absolute war out there today. And all the scraps, but if you look at the key scraps in that game they were won by the older players. It just shows.

Lyndsey Davey and Sarah Fagan celebrate.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Lyndsey (firefighter) is talking about 15 years. McGrath (accountant) would be very close on the same thing. But look what they did. When you talk about developing people for the world, for so many different skillsets. I look around our camp at the moment and see those leaders. That is what they do. They do that in so many ways night after night.

That is what we saw out there today; it wasn’t pretty, but character. Today was all about character and their character stood up a little bit higher than what Galway’s was. That is no disrespect to them at all. They need to learn their trade and you can only do it by getting here.

“That little bit of experience that comes year after year. You can imagine how proud we are going back into that dressing room.”

Davey and McGrath pick up from there between them, returning the praise for their manager and speaking about how far ladies football has come in their time.

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That, perhaps, reminds Bohan of that special someone, the mascot present with the Blues Sisters today. How these players are role models, and how this win is about so much more for this group of players.

“I don’t know if you saw it outside there, there was a little girl, Niamh McMorrow from Trim,” he begins. 

“I don’t know if you were familiar with her story, but she had an accident. Nine or 10 months ago, she had an epileptic fit and fell down the stairs in her grandmother’s house and she severed her spine.”

He mentions some medically-involved players in the set-up: Noelle Healy (doctor) and Lucy Collins (physiotherapist) and explains how this all came about then.

“I think I had done a football course in Trim or something like that, and her Dad made contact with us. At that time, it was quite bleak. Obviously she had to go through surgery and the chances of regaining the power of your legs is very slim.

Her Dad, in fairness to him, set a goal quite quickly after she had surgery. If we were to get to an All-Ireland final that she’d lead us out. Even at that time, our medical staff and the girls who are involved in medicine themselves would have said that it possibly was an unrealistic goal. She walked out with the match ball today. 

“What’s incredible about that is… I would have felt, and I think the girls will back this up, we were incredibly lucky that someone wanted to contact us to help in that regard, which anyone would try and do if you can create some kind of a role model.

“Gaelic games is her sport, and we would have felt her achievement today was bigger than ours. The fact that people call on you for that type of stuff is just, I think, remarkable. We were immensely proud of her and it did mean an awful lot to our group, for anyone that might have seen what happened outside.”

Noelle Healy facing Orla Murphy.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

He points out former Dublin footballers Jimmy Keaveny and Brian Mullins, as two of his sporting heroes growing up, and discusses how Johnny Sexton, Brian O’Driscoll and Paul Flynn are some other younger girls have looked up to over the past few years.

But now, it’s different. People like these female Dublin players are heroes across the length and breadth of the country.

“Now, look what has happened,” he smiles. “That exposure to female sports… and we didn’t come in banging a drum for this by any means, the bottom line is the knock-on effect of key role models like you have here is so important.

“I don’t know how many hours in the gym that young kid had to do to try and mobilise again, to put her weight on her feet, but she needed help.

Someone to aspire to, somebody who just would give her a bit of direction. The girls would have texted her and called into her, quite a number of the girls in the squad called in over that period of time, and kept in touch.

“To see those things… as we all know, there’s more to sport than just sport. That’s one of the things that comes out of days like today. You win a medal or a trophy or whatever else, but there’s so much more to life than that.

“A big day, a huge achievement and, oh, we’re going to have some craic, lads,” he concludes.

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