Dublin to begin Bord Gáis Energy National League campaign without entire All-Ireland winning full back line

by Jackie Cahill


DUBLIN will start next Sunday’s Bord Gáis Energy Ladies National Football league campaign without their entire full-back line from last September’s spectacular TG4 All-Ireland final victory against Tyrone.

Maria Kavanagh has retired, Rachel Ruddy is in Singapore while Avril Cluxton, who is due to get married later this year, is currently unavailable due to work commitments.

In addition, Clare native Noelle Comyn, who suffered cruciate knee ligament damage last year, is still working her way back to full fitness, leaving the Sky Blues short of cover in front of goalkeeper Cliodhna O’Connor.

Dublin were relegated from Division 1 of the Bord Gáis Energy National League last year but still managed to put that heartbreak behind them to claim a very first TG4 All-Ireland senior crown.

The next challenge for the Jackies is to bounce back to the top flight and that challenge begins next Sunday when Armagh visit Fingallians for an opening day clash in Division 2.

Former Allstar goalkeeper O’Connor reflected: “It is what it is. “We had a horrendous League campaign last year and got ourselves in this situation. Our focus now is to get back to Division 1 as quick as possible.”

The Naomh Mearnóg shotstopper has also revealed a burning desire within the Dublin camp to prove that last year’s All-Ireland success was no fluke.

She said: “There have been teams who try for a long time to win it and then finish up but I don’t think that’s going to be the situation with us. We already have our own expectations for this year – we don’t want to be a flash in the pan.”

Dublin will face stiff opposition in their quest to retain the Brendan Martin Cup as Cork, who were five-in-a-row champions from 2005-2009, lead the chasing pack.

O’Connor said: “Everyone would agree that they (Cork) raised the standards in ladies football, which is never a bad thing. “Even if they dominated for a while, everybody else had to come up and meet it. Even playing against Cork, it was always a good, clean and open game of football. They’re always a nice team to play against, win or lose. It’s pushed the game on and now it’s up to the rest of us to push it on even further.”

Dublin lost narrowly to Cork in the 2009 All-Ireland final but hit back 12 months later with an emphatic victory against Tyrone.

O’Connor admitted: “The previous defeat to Cork, that was heartbreaking. That was very difficult to deal with. We went back into the National League and we were training exceptionally hard. There were a lot of players coming in and out during the league; I’m not making excuses, we played very poorly. But with hindsight, you can pinpoint reasons why we were playing so poorly. Did it (relegation) help us to win the All-Ireland? I don’t think so because we always knew where we wanted to go in the summer. Maybe encountering problems that early in the season was a good thing. You knew where you were going wrong in February and March and there was time to fix it before the summer.”

O’Connor also rejected the theory that playing in Division 2 this year may hamper the team’s championship ambitions.

She said: “I don’t think so. If you look at a lot of the teams in Division 2, they’re good quality opposition. Again, it’s about our performance. I don’t think we could possibly play any worse in the league this year, regardless of the opposition.”

Dublin begin life under new manager Tommy Brown next Sunday, following Gerry McGill’s decision to step down following last September’s All-Ireland win.

O’Connor reflected: “Gerry was there for four years. Obviously there’s a change when your manager leaves having been there that long but there’s a bit of continuity there with Tommy Brown, the selector, now the manager. Tommy knows exactly what we’ve done for the last number of years – what expectations we had and what standards we tried to meet all of the time.”

Sign up to our email newsletter


Partners & Supporters





See all LGFAClubs