Dublin 2-3 Galway 0-4
The roar at the final hooter from the stands containing a record crowd of 56,114 was cacophonous, those bedecked in blue not giving a fig about the quality of the contest that had gone before. Dublin might not have done it in the style they would have wished, but job done all the same – they had themselves a three-in-a-row.
But my, what a peculiar 60 minutes of football it was. "I thought the game would never end," said Dublin midfielder Lauren Magee come full-time. It was a feeling that might well have been shared by the bulk of neutral observers, certainly at the end of a first half that featured just two scores, a goal from Dublin's Sinéad Goldrick and a point from Galway's Sarah Conneally.
A swirling breeze, steady drizzle and a greasy ball hardly helped, but still, both attacks have played in considerably worse conditions and racked up the scores; Dublin helping themselves to a monster 19-72 from their five Championship games up to the final.
And it wasn’t even a case of the defences being on top, plenty of chances were given up by both, but Galway in particular were left to rue their wastefulness. They started the game much the brighter, putting paid to any notion that the occasion might get the better of them on what was only the second time, after the semi-final, that their players had made a senior appearance in Croke Park.
With Louise Ward and Áine McDonagh getting the better of the midfield exchanges early on, Galway’s front six were seeing plenty of ball, but a tally of five wides, along with a number of chances dropped short in to Dublin goalkeeper Ciara Trant’s hands, as well a Róisín Leonard free coming back off the post, left them with that single score at the break. A well taken one it was too from Conneally, but it had taken 25 minutes to arrive, Galway failing, quite spectacularly, to capitalise on their promising opening.
Three minutes before Dublin had broken their duck, Goldrick driving forward from her defensive duties to get on the end of fine work by Hannah O'Neill and Jennifer Dunne, looping the ball over the advancing Lisa Murphy as she was being tackled by Sarah Lynch.
And that was it, two first-half scores. Those who had confidently predicted a high-scoring, free-flowing final were in hiding.
Lyndsey Davey’s point straight from the restart promised better fare, but the scoring struggles persisted, Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne and Róisín Leonard adding to the tally of wides.
The key passage in the game, though, came when Galway's Mairéad Seoighe was sin-binned for 10 minutes after a late and needless hit on Trant, and within two minutes Dublin had stretched their lead to five points through a goal from O'Neill, who had replaced Noelle Healy in the starting line-up named earlier in the week. Niamh McEvoy took a quick free to Davey and after she weaved her way past Orla Murphy and Shauna Molloy, she picked out O'Neill at the left post, the Foxrock Cabinteely forward palming it home.
But the wiliness and experience of the last two footballers of the year, Aherne and Healy (who had replaced Jennifer Dunne at half-time), helped Dublin see out the game. Aherne, picked out by Davey, curled the ball over the bar five minutes from time for her only point of the game, before Healy ran half the length of the field to point and all but settle the contest.
It was the lowest scoring final since 2003, but that stat was hardly going to put a dampener on the celebrations. “What a group of warriors,” said Dublin manager Mick Bohan, and that they are. For a team that has raised the bar in women’s football in recent years, since they overcame all that Cork-inflicted heartache, they’ve toiled hard to get to where they are.
“There wasn’t a mention of a three-in-row in the build-up,” said player of the match Davey, “but there’ll be plenty of talk about it now.”
DUBLIN: 1 C Trant; 2 É Rutledge, 3 N Collins, 4 M Byrne; 5 A Kane, 6 S Goldrick (1-0), 7 O Carey; 8 L Magee, 9 S McGrath; 10 C Rowe, 11 N McEvoy, 12 L Davey (0-1); 13 S Aherne (0-1, capt), 24 H O'Neill (1-0), 15 J Dunne.
Subs: 14 N Healy (0-1) for Dunne (h/t), 19 C O'Connor for McEvoy (43 mins), 22 O Whyte for O'Neill (51), 18 R Ruddy for Kane (55), 23 N Hetherton for Rowe (60).
GALWAY: 1 L Murphy; 2 S Burke, 3 N Ward, 4 S Lynch; 5 O Murphy, 6 B Hannon, 7 S Molloy; 8 L Ward, 9 A McDonagh; 10 O Divilly, 11 M Glynn, 12 M Seoighe; 13 T Leonard (0-2, capt), 14 S Conneally (0-1), 15 R Leonard (0-1).
Subs: 19 F Cooney for Conneally (43 mins), 22 C Cooney for Murphy (46), 20 L Coen for Seoighe (48), 29 A Trill for R Leonard (57), 18 M Coyne for B Hannon (58).
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down).