Blues Sisters: The Journey of the Dublin ladies to All-Ireland Champions

Ealier this year attendance at the Ladies All-Ireland final shattered all previous records as 46,286 people flocked to Croke Park to watch Dublin take on Mayo. This was Dublin’s fourth year to reach the final only to suffer heart-ache at the hands of Cork thrice before. On the November 27, RTÉ broadcast the documentary Blues Sisters which followed the team, the coaches and all those involved in their campaign to becoming All-Ireland Champions 2017.

We followed the ladies from winning their Leinster semi-finals against Laois and then going on to beat Westmeath in the final at Cullen Park in Carlow. Training sessions in the dark, rain and cold, late nights or early morning in the gym never deterred their hunger and passion for reaching their goals.

Interviews with various players talked about everything from game preparation, friendships, inspirations and personal struggles. Forward Nicole Owens bravely spoke of her battles with depression throughout her time on the Dublin panel. However, over time the relationships formed with her teammates, some of whom are her best friends and her coaches have vastly helped her. ‘Things like knowing that people have your back and that you are valued in a team more than just a player on the pitch, that’s massive’ said Owens. There appears to be no lack of any type of support for the members of this team.

Back in 2010 Dublin Ladies became All-Ireland winners for the first time, securing their victory over Tyrone. Sinead Finnegan attended the game in Croke Park but was not involved with the team having taken a break from sport, due to the unexpected passing of her father. ‘Because he had been so involved in my footballing life, it was too difficult’ said Finnegan, ‘I couldn’t do any wrong in his eyes’. Since then, Sinead has returned to football and was one of the starting fifteen for the All-Ireland final this year.

However, the programme did not only focus on the players. We were introduced to Kathleen Colreavy who is assistant county secretary and chief jersey washer for the Dublin Ladies. It shows that GAA is not merely a game, it is a whole sense of community and everybody has their role to play. In addition, analyst Seaghan Kearney travels with the girls to every match throughout the season. He examines everything from turnovers, the profiling of players pre-game and video analysis post-game. A lot of emphasis was also placed on the families of the players who have travelled to so many of their games to support them. Sinead Goldrick commented that her dad ‘has been to every game club and county’, Lauren Magee takes inspiration from her father Johnny and uncle Darren Magee who both played with Dublin Senior Men for many years. However, one woman that captured the hearts of all viewers was ‘Nanna Peg’, grandmother to forward Hannah O’Neill. She attends all the matches with her Dublin jersey and a flag that’s ‘bigger than herself’. In the stands the family are going through so many emotions players don’t feel whilst they are playing.

After their Leinster victory the team went away on a team bonding trip together to county Clare. The weekend gave them well-deserved recovery time as well as a bonding experience before attentions turned to the upcoming quarter final against Waterford. Of course, we all know that Dublin won both their quarter and semi-final matches, so all focus is now drawn to the 24th of September.

The big day finally arrives as the buses pull into Croke Park. On the day both coaches Frank Browne (Mayo) and Dublin’s Mick Bohan resisted the temptation to change their starting line-up. Attention turns to the preparations made for the day, jerseys hung in the dressing room, Dublin flags dawning the walls and the girls readying themselves for the biggest game of the year. ‘It’s not like any other day and you cannot prepare for it,’ comments head coach Bohan ‘You cannot replicate the nerves, replicate the noise’. He was right as with a record number of attendees, the noise was much greater than any of them would have experienced before.

Dublin got off to a nervous start and with a recurring injury acting up for Sinead Finnegan a substitute was brought on, but Dublin led at half time by 1-06 to 1-00.  Time in the changing room gave the girls what they needed as everyone from those on the pitch and those who came on from the bench, stormed the second half. Smart decisions and executed kicks meant Dublin beat Mayo 4-11 to 0-11. A euphoric Dublin panel flooded onto the pitch to celebrate and finally hold the long awaited Brendan Martin. The documentary finished with the team in the changing room, their prize at the centre of their circle, singing the ‘Dog Days are Over. They really were.

The documentary Blues Sisters will be on RTÉ Player for the next few weeks.

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