Mick Bohan: ‘We’re still searching for that performance on the biggest of days’

Dublin boss sends his side out against Meath in search of a fifth successive women’s title

Mick Bohan says that he's always learning. This weekend he is expected to manage overwhelming favourites Dublin to a fifth successive All-Ireland against newcomers Meath but still retains a spirit of enquiry when it comes to coaching and how it works and affects those under his direction.

Some years ago, he says his son was the source of a fundamental revelation after losing an under-10s match in Ballyboden.

“I was picking up the cones,” he tells the AIG media call, “and Kevin was back at the car with his chin on his hands when one of the mentors said to him, ‘Jeez, it wasn’t that bad. You only lost by a point’ and he said, ‘yeah but you don’t have to go back across the Liffey with my oul fella’.

“I remember thinking at the time, is that the effect that I’m actually having on kids? All those experiences help you to become better.”


He has collaborated with any number of coaches through years. This is his second stint with the Dublin women and in the interim he worked with Jim Gavin and the men's team.

The experience may have helped with the managing of repeat successes but when he returned in 2017, the team had lost three All-Ireland finals on the spin – all of them to Cork. They moved from being desperate for success, any success, to wanting to beat Cork to completing a three-in-row to now, the dominant force in the game.

“From our point of view – and I really mean this – we’re still searching for that performance on the biggest of days. That’s driven us, and kept the freshness in the group. Ultimately, we know there are probably a couple of the diehards who are coming to the end, and they certainly know what way they want to go out.”

The fascination with new experiences, different techniques, and their application to team preparation includes something that is also regarded as a pestilence by others – the recruitment of players by the AFLW, where 14 Irish footballers spent the 2021 season.

The seasons dovetail but it is disruptive for counties.

He doesn't see it as "my job to curtail people from living their lives fully" but he could be forgiven for being more hostile, given the career-threatening injury sustained Down Under by one of his most influential players, Sinéád Goldrick, who together with Niamh McEvoy and Lauren Magee, plays with Melbourne.

Specific skills atrophy but Bohan also sees benefits when his players return.

“Yeah, they couldn’t kick the ball when they came back – we had to re-coach them!

“It’s funny, Goldie [Sinéád Goldrick] would have said to me, prior to the injury, that one of the key things she got out there was recovery. She’s had a tendonopathy problem but the problem dissipated out there because she was able to do the recovery in the mornings and in the gym as she was working essentially as a professional athlete.

“Macker [Niamh McEvoy] came to me with the concept of separation: how to get away from a player. They are the ‘learnings’ as coaches, how you develop.”

Adapting techniques from other sports is now part of any Gaelic games coach's remit. Bohan has worked with Mark Ingle, the basketball coach, who contributed to Jim Gavin's tactical reassessment of the Dublin men.

“For anyone playing basketball in the D, the concept of seeing the cut-through is a great insight . . . that bit of excitement comes from those marginal gains.”

To those who have more will be given. Having pocketed the four-in-a-row last December, Dublin managed to attract back Hannah Tyrrell, who had taken a few years out to become a rugby international.

“Here’s the learning that I took from it: I didn’t realise there was another level of conditioning. She was at a different level because she was training five days a week on her strength and conditioning. We were doing our conditioning sessions once a week. Her physique, while she doesn’t carry anybody mass – her strength is huge.”

“A left-footer in the game with that natural swing has obviously brought a little bit of diversity to our game, which we may not have had before. When you bring in somebody who’s been involved in a professional/semi-professional basis, the ‘learnings’ they bring from another game include their approach, their lifestyle. I’m not saying there are huge voids, but they bring that little bit extra.

“She has a phenomenal swing of her left boot. It’s a wand. It’s the exact same swing that Sinéad Aherne would have on the other side of the goal. While we’ve worked an awful lot on both sides of the body, you can’t coach that natural swing. Being a place-kicker, her focus on that free, that distance kick from that side of the goal has been incredible.

“She’s a tall girl so she gives an aerial threat which isn’t common in the women’s game.”

In his own life, Bohan is also open to change. After years as a PE teacher, he now has a new career with Husqvarna Ireland.

He’s wary of the immediate challenge, however, even at 10 to 1 on.

“I was just told there by the Meath captain that with seven minutes to go they were 1000-1 to beat Cork [in the semi-final]. So the bookies odds at times don’t mean a whole heap.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times