When Dublin manager Mick Bohan was told that his Cork counterpart Ephie Fitzgerald believed his team had been disrespected during the build-up, their chances of beating the reigning champions written off, he did a double-take towards the questioner lest he was jesting.
“Are you joking me? After the scars they’ve left here?”
Deep scars too, as the players alongside would attest, Sinead Goldrick, Carla Rowe and Sinead Aherne all having suffered at the hands of the greatest women's Gaelic football team of all time who amassed 11 titles in 12 years.
“Not in our camp were they disrespected,” said Bohan. “We have the utmost respect for Cork and that’s really what makes that prize today that little bit extra special. And beating Cork was really important for this group because it was always something that was going to be thrown back at them, long after their boots were hung up, that they couldn’t beat the great Cork team.”
It was an inconsolable Cork captain Ciara O’Sullivan who had raised the issue. “I don’t think anyone gave us a chance which, for people who trained so hard all year, was quite hurtful and a bit disrespectful. We gave a good account of ourselves. We were beaten by the better team on the day so we can’t have any complaints,” she said.
Not even talk of a Cork team with so much potential, because of the addition of a batch of gifted newcomers over the last year or two, could raise O’Sullivan’s spirits. “It’s really, really hard when you’re a player, when everyone’s talking about progress and development. This is my 11th year playing, I don’t think about progress. When you’re training every night of the week you’re not looking to progress for 2019, you’re looking to be competitive and win in 2018. We didn’t win the All-Ireland and that’s what we set out to do.
“We’ll regroup again in January and go again, but right now we’re not looking at ‘progress’. We’re just bitterly disappointed and heartbroken.”
Bohan, meanwhile, saluted both sides after “an absolute white heat of a battle”. “For anyone trying to promote women’s sport – that was brave, honest, relentless. I think the rules of the game – no deliberate contact – went out the window, and rightly so. The referee needed to do that because it was such an incredible contest, they went for everything, that’s the way the game should be played. I hope you enjoyed the spectacle because I thought both teams were magnificent.”
Bohan also admitted that two-goal Carla Rowe was close enough to being taken off. “We didn’t think Carla was in the game and all of a sudden she pops up and scored a brilliant goal. That bought her a bit of time, but she was struggling again. And all of a sudden she pops up and gets another goal. And they were both in stages of the game where we’d lost a little control, so to get that momentum back was huge.”
“That’s nice to know,” Rowe laughed on being told she was close to being benched. Her goals? “Ah, I just had to calm down in front of goal and have a relaxed head,” she said. “They were actually both on my left foot too. Thrilled. This is something we’ve all dreamt of, we’re just so happy to have achieved it.”
How soon will it be before you’re asked about doing a three-in-a-row?
“We’ve already been asked,” she laughed, less than an hour after she and her team-mates had retained a senior All-Ireland title for the very first time.
Time to celebrate. The three-in-a-row can wait.