Sinéad Aherne praises ‘huge leadership’ as Dublin make it four in a row
Captain sat out second-half but came back on with seconds left to share historic moment
Dublin’s Sinéad Aherne and Carla Rowe celebrate after their win over Cork in the Ladies’ All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
We knew it was a moment in history, even if there was no crowd to provide the adulation. Sinéad Aherne became the first captain to lift the Brendan Martin for a fourth successive year and, perhaps fittingly, it was to the roars of her team-mates that the duty was performed.
Aherne didn’t reappear for the second half until victory was in Dublin’s hands. A hamstring injury sustained in the semi-final win over Armagh had stubbornly refused to mend, and she was substituted at the half-time break – but with the caveat from Dublin manager Mick Bohan to “keep yourself warm”.
Which is why, with just seconds left, Aherne returned to the field of play. “Sinéad Aherne more than anybody probably epitomises what this group was all about. You don’t always get an opportunity for sentiment to play a role in sport but just for her to finish on the pitch today meant a lot to us as a group,” said Bohan of his decision.
I know we probably get thrown in on the backs of the lads’ success a little bit, but ultimately Dublin have won five All-Irelands in their history
Will Aherne be back again in 2021? She manages a laugh out of the question. “Usually I say I will think about it over Christmas, but sure Christmas is here already this year. I will give my body a rest and see next year,” said 33-year-old Aherne, into her 17th year as an inter-county player and with five All-Ireland medals to her name.
It was as a spectator rather than an influential player that she watched Dublin dominate the second half to claim a fourth title in a row. She has been a leader for so much of her tenure, but others stepped up in her absence. “There is huge leadership in the group, we saw that out there today. I have the honour of walking up the steps and taking the cup on behalf of the girls, but they have been brilliant the last few years in terms of their attitude, no panic,” said Aherne.
“Carla [Rowe], as she did in the Armagh game, took the responsibility of those clutch moments,” agreed Bohan, adding: “You don’t know until you step up if that’s in the armoury, but we have seen that over her development over the last season or two where she has become a leader in the group.”
With the ladies backing up the men in dominating their championships, Bohan made the point: “I know we probably get thrown in on the backs of the lads’ success a little bit, but ultimately Dublin have won five All-Irelands in their history, it just happens this group has set the standard. I think what drove them to that situation was the beatings [in 2014-’16] because there is certainly something about those days as long as they play together they will never forget and, on the back of the lads last night in an empty stadium, it is kind of surreal.
“But there is a massive satisfaction in being successful this year. All of us in our own lives, and add on a sporting life where so many challenges are thrown at you, I just think it will be something in times to come they will sit back and reflect on as one of their greatest achievements.”