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Joyous reception for Dublin GAA women’s team in Malahide

Cheering crowd of 2,000 turns up to celebrate football final victory over Mayo

Sinéad Aherne signs autographs for young fans at Malahide homecoming. Photograph ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

These are heady days for women’s Gaelic football. Sunday’s final between Dublin and Mayo had the largest attendance at a women’s sporting event in Europe this year and the largest-ever attendance and television audience for a women’s football final.

The Dublin heroines came home to St Sylvester’s club, adjacent to Malahide Castle, on Monday night. Seventeen clubs are represented on the Dublin panel which won only the county’s second All-Ireland in the grade.

Three players came from St Sylvester’s, a fairly moderately-sized club by Dublin standards, the captain and corner-forward Sinéad Aherne, the full-forward Nicola McEvoy and left half-forward Nicole Owens.

The trio were the last on to the makeshift podium in the corner of the club grounds. The cheer from the 2,000 well-wishers and fans as they lifted the Brendan Martin Cup to the autumnal sky could be heard all the way across the Malahide estuary.

Dublin team manager Mick Bohan told a jubilant crowd that the lessons from Dublin’s success were simple. “If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try and try again.” This was a reference to the team’s loss of three All-Ireland finals in a row. This team had won a lot of hearts and minds but no silverware until Sunday’s 12 point demolition of Mayo. *

When it was pointed out to Sinéad that she had a 100 per cent record in the game from frees (she scored seven points from placed balls) she modestly countered that she also fluffed that penalty in the first half.

The celebration of this victory was made all the more keen by successive defeats. “The defeats shaped us. They made us more determined,” she said.

Her team-mate Noelle Healy won player of the match despite not scoring from corner forward. “We had a competition to see who had the worst miss and I won. Somebody was cursing me,” she joked.

“We said, ‘girls, we’re coming out of here with no more tears’ and then when we won we started bawling crying.”

The real winner though was women’s sport. “To see the coverage, the interest in it and more kids out, is great,” said the Dublin captain. “Hopefully it will continue to grow at that rate.”

The Dublin women have an unofficial anthem, Singin’ in the Rain. On a beautiful autumn evening, the song never seemed less appropriate for a team that has finally found its place in the sun.

*This article was amended on September 26th, 2017