"I want to have one more year with Dublin and really relish in it" - My LGFA Life with Dublin's Siobhan McGrath

Siobhan McGrath – Dublin

Age: 32

Club: Thomas Davis

Occupation: Accountant

County Debut: 2004 League game against Laois

Notable achievements:  3 All Ireland Final titles with Dublin, 9 Leinster titles with Dublin, Junior County, Leinster and All Ireland titles with Thomas Davis, Intermediate County and Leinster titles with Thomas Davis. Division 1 League title with Dublin. 2019 TG4 Ladies player of the year. 4 All Star awards.


Siobhan, thanks for chatting to us! How have you found your experience of playing Ladies Football?


My experience of Ladies football has been for the most part one of enjoyment, excitement and pride. There have been many ups and downs but the ups have far outweighed the downs. The most satisfying aspect, and one I will cherish when I am no longer playing, is the unique friendships and bonds I have made with my teammates. When I was away in Australia, it was the feeling of being part of a team all working for the same goal that I missed the most. Playing Ladies Football has also instilled many characteristics that have helped me achieve my goals in my personal life. All the necessary traits needed to play football like teamwork, hard work, communicating effectively, the drive to always be better etc. have directly transitioned into my professional career. Having football in my life enabled me to be more focused and prioritise/juggle all the different aspects of my life.


What was it that sparked your interest in the sport from a young age?


My family would be a traditional GAA family and my primary school was very big into all types of sport. They were very good at encouraging all kids to play with Thomas Davis. I did try and do more dancing and break the mould when I was a kid but eventually Camogie won out. Football didn’t come to our club until I was 13 so naturally enough most of us playing camogie joined the football team also.


When did you pull on the Dublin jersey for the first time, and how big of thrill was that?


Believe it or not but the first time I ever put on the Dublin jersey was with the Dublin U14 Camogie team against Wexford. It was more nerve-racking than a thrill. The nerves before games were bad back then and certainly have not changed now! But, like always, putting on that Dublin jersey is just one of pride and always wanting to do it justice. As a kid you always dream of playing for Dublin and when you get that chance it’s a huge honour to represent both your club and county.


What is the best thing for you about playing Ladies Football?


I have already alluded to it above but it is definitely the friendships you make. I have been very fortunate to be play through nearly three different generations of teams with Dublin and have learned so much from each group and am still learning. With the club, you are playing with girls you grew up with and will finish your career with. The feeling you have gone into battle with these girls, that you have gone through every emotion through the ups and downs, creates special bonds that are just not breakable or you don’t build with others. I do also love the competitiveness it generates. The way we push other to constantly improve and get the best out of each other is just the best experience.


Who was the biggest influence on your career?


The biggest influences are my parents and the one and only Christina Collins (McGinty) (pictured below). My parents have always supported me, they are my biggest fans but also my biggest critics (well mostly my Dad on that one). It wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I started getting more positive feedback from the auld fella. Before that there was always three things I needed to work on. Poor Mam would be trying to keep the peace between us. McGinty has always been my sounding board and has always steered me in the right direction. It was such a great experience to win an All-Ireland Junior club title with Thomas Davis with her.


What are the main challenges that you faced in your career so far?


The main challenges have always been trying to pick yourself up after defeats. I wasn’t part of the three defeats in a row with Dublin against Cork as I had decided to retire at the end of the first one in 2014, but I suppose I had endured many defeats down through the years, with a lot of them at the hands of the great Cork team. Trying to pick yourself up to go again is very hard but, again, that’s when your teammates come into it, you do it for them. I suppose on a more personal note I found coming back in 2018 very difficult. Not the decision to come back – that part was easy – but the constant uphill battle to get back to intercounty standard. It felt like a never-ending battle. I just could not get to the pace of it, both fitness and football wise. There were plenty of times I wanted to give up, told myself ‘look you are past it, this is pointless’. But I stayed the course because the girls and management believed in me and pushed me. I am very grateful to all of them for that, as the past two years have just been an amazing experience.

Receiving the Player of the Match award from Ard Stiúrthóir TG4, Alan Esslemont, following the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cork. 


In 2019, you were named as TG4 Players player of the year. What do you remember of that and how big of an honour was it for you?


It was mad to be honest. The night itself goes so quickly. The fact it is picked by your peers is what makes it so special really. For me I am not the most skilful of players, I suppose my work-rate is what I really add so for that to be recognised when we have such amazing players in this country is what makes it more amazing for me. It just kind of shows younger girls that there are many different skills and aspects to the game.


What do you do for a living, and how do you manage the work-life-sport balance?


I am an Accountant, so different stages of the month or year would be a lot busier than others. This part can be challenging at times. Sometimes the social element might have to suffer again – it depends on the time of the year – but generally it doesn’t bother you when you are focused on a goal. With work, it just means knowing how to prioritise and being efficient with your time. It is an amateur sport so sometimes work will have to come first and I don’t know many managers where that would be an issue.


You’ve been lucky enough to compete at Croke Park on many occasions, suffering some agonising defeats while also experiencing the joy of memorable victories. What’s the Croke Park experience like for a player?

The dream as a kid is always to get to play in Croke Park and to have experienced it on a good few occasions has been unbelievable. The defeats have not been so good now but playing the last two years with the crowds that have come out to support us in the finals, and last year’s semi-final, have been incredible. It really does spur you on and gives you this drive to perform. When you can hear the crowd in the dressing room, you are just busting to get out.

Chatting with Marty Morrissey after receiving the TG4 Senior Players’ Player of the Year award for 2019. 

What are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of your career?


Well at this stage, I just want to get a championship this year! I want to have one more year with Dublin and really relish in it. With club I want to win a senior club championship and go further into the All-Ireland series. That would be a very nice way to end my career. Let’s hope the body keeps going for a few more years!!


Have you played other sports?


Yes, when I was younger I was thrown into any sport that the school was competing in. In primary school we had Camogie, Basketball, Olympic Handball and Athletics. At secondary school, I took up soccer also. I think kids should get involved in all sports and get a feel for what they like. Sometimes one sport is just not for them and the last thing anyone wants is for them to give up just because they have not found the sport for them.


Do you have a favourite photograph from your career?


Yes actually our club presented Olwen Carey and myself with a photograph after the 2018 All Ireland Final. It was of us both arm in arm running over to where all the Thomas Davis contingent were in Croke Park after the game. I remember it so well, you couldn’t miss them with all their banners. They are always so supportive of us.


How have you managed to cope with the experience of lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic?


Like most, I have had good and bad days. I found it very difficult at the start not seeing anyone, everything being done in the same space, work, exercise, sleep etc., but staying in contact using the Zoom calls made it easier. Not knowing whether we would have football for the year was hard but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel now. The fact that everyone has worked together and done their part to get us where we are today is inspiring.


You play your club football with Thomas Davis. What has that experience of club football been like for you?


I am very fortunate to be part of a club that has been so supportive and encouraging to our Ladies teams. We won the 2012 All Ireland Junior title and competed in the 2013 All Ireland intermediate Final and some of the best memories was the journey and craic we had in those two years. It felt like the whole club was travelling around the country supporting us. They certainly all helped us celebrate but were there to console us too. We have been competing at senior level since 2014 and have made it to the semi-final in the last two years. I love playing with these girls – there are some gas characters and they work so hard. Like I said earlier, I look forward to when I retire from Dublin and get to finish my football career with the Thomas Davis girls.


What’s your career highlight?


That is a hard one for me as each All Ireland won, including the club one, has been so special for different reasons. But if I have to pick between them, then I would say the 2010 All Ireland, mainly just as we made history, being the first Dublin team to with a Senior All Ireland title.


How confident are you that Dublin can continue to challenge for the top honours in the coming years, having established yourselves as a leading force?


I wouldn’t say we think of ourselves as a leading force. But, as like all teams when we start the year, we want to win. That is what motivates us all to play at this level. We focus on ourselves and what we need to improve to become a better team. That will change and alter throughout the year. There will always be teams raising the bar and every team is driving to be the team doing the raising. That is no different to us. I would think the bedding in of new and young players, and transitioning those players into senior players, is so important.


What piece of advice would you give you offer to up and coming players?

Well, I think making sure you are enjoying it is important. Hard work, play as part of a team and listen to your coaches is essential. Always practice on both feet and hands and try to effectively critique yourself. That means identifying what you need to improve on – but also what you are good at.


And who’s given you the best piece of advice during your career?


I think the advice I always go back to is what I received since I was a kid. McGinty has always said ‘do the simple things right’ while Dad used to say ‘be like a dog with a bone and never give up’. When a game is not going right, or my player is getting the better of me, I always go back to those mottos. There is one stand-out dressing moment for me though. Denise Masterson told us at half time one day ‘saddle up and be prepared to do the donkey work.’ Her version was a bit more colourful! This always brings it back to work-rate for me and being willing to sacrifice your own game for the good of the team.


What hobbies do you enjoy?


Brunch is one of my favourite things to do. I think that is the Aussie influence. I cannot deny I do like a spot of shopping too. Other than that, it’s the usual, you know, reading, I like doing some hill walks and generally socialising with my friends.


You’re hosting a dinner party, and you can invite 5 people. Who’s on the list and what are you rustling up for your guests?


Doireann Garrihy – I think she is gas and just think she would bring the banter at dinner.

Paul O’Connell – He is such a hero and would love to hear some team stories.

Davy Fitz – No reason needed I would think. He should be on every dinner list.

Katie Taylor – again she is a legend and would love to hear everything she has been through.

Donncha O’Callaghan – Think he would add some good humour. He would bounce well off all the above I think.

I think it would have to be a Mexican feast, with some Eton Mess for dessert.


And who’s your all-time sporting idol?


My hero growing up was Colin Lynch from Clare. My parents are from Clare, so when the Clare hurlers where doing well in the 90s, we were brought to their games. I always admired how he played, and wanted to play in midfield for camogie, like him.


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