Victory hewn out of Hard work

Victory hewn out of hard work By Denise Horan

It wasn’t three-in-a-row, nor five. It wasn’t revenge for
any heartbreak from last year. It was a fourth All-Ireland
title in five years – but it was just as sweet as any other.
Sweeter in a way, because it was one to savour for its own
sake, not because we had a point to prove. You can never tire
of winning All-Irelands and though many will say that the
hunger for success diminishes the more of it you get, I don’t
agree. Yes, the edge may go after a little while, but the
hunger never wanes. Once you have tasted success at the highest
level, you never, ever want to lose again. It will happen,
of course. We won’t go on forever. These things go in cycles,
but whatever the future holds, ours has been a long and fruitful
stint. That’s all you can do: make the most of your time at
the top, leave the strongest mark possible.

Sunday’s game wasn’t always pretty. It wasn’t flowing football
at its best. It was based on intensity, commitment, tenacity
and a never-say-die attitude – on the part of both teams.
Dublin contributed just as much as we did and were not found
wanting when the hard questions were asked. They put in a
huge effort to get to the final this year and when they got
there they gave it everything they had. They weren’t looking
for short-cuts or easy rides. Leinster teams can’t do that
or they’ll be found out very quickly.

No, Dublin did it the hard way and, as their manager Mick
Bohan remarked in our dressing room after the game, there
was no one else they wanted to meet in Croke Park but us.
That’s a tribute to us, certainly, but it also says a lot
about them. They wanted to be the best in Ireland and to do
so they wanted to beat the best. Otherwise it wouldn’t have
mattered as much. But something got us over the line ahead
of them. Some say it was luck, others have pointed to a guardian
angel who was watching over us this year. The odd chancer
will even dare compare us to Meath, saying we never know when
we’re beaten. It was probably a combination of a lot of things
and luck played its part. But were we any luckier on Sunday
than we were unlucky two years ago? I don’t think so.

You make your own luck and when you can remain calm, focused
and unshakeable when staring defeat in the face maybe you
deserve to win. When Dublin went a point ahead with four minutes
to go, we could have folded. We could have said ‘that’s it,
our time is up’. But we didn’t. We kept our heads, we believed
in ourselves, we didn’t panic. And we got our just rewards.
If anyone questioned our hunger, they got their answer in
those final minutes.

It was a victory hewn out of hard work, not just over the
sixty minutes, but over the last five years. That’s the advantage
we have over many teams. While much was made of Dublin’s tough
training regime over the last ten months, the fact that we
have done the same for five years was somehow lost in the
hype. That hype has become the norm now. Stories of sacrifice,
commitment, sports psychologists, the foregoing of social
lives and relationships are two a penny in the run-up to every
final. But don’t be fooled: all it is is hype.

True, the sacrifices are made, the commitment is put in, the
minds are finely tuned. But that’s par for the course if you
want to be successful. It shouldn’t be made into a virtue.
The sporting world is a cruel and unforgiving one when it
comes to the effort required to be the best. You either put
it in or you don’t. And even if you do there’s no guarantee
of success, because everyone else is doing the same.

We had many heroes on Sunday, as we have always had. Some
old and some new but all equally important. In a low-scoring
game, it was, inevitably, the defences that shone. Ours was
exceptional. I must be the luckiest goalkeeper in the world
to play with such wonderful backs. I’m scarcely needed, so
great is their protection. On Sunday, they put their bodies
on the line fearlessly, as they always do, to thwart Dublin
attacks. Dublin were dangerous going forward, but they couldn’t
break us down and when you are repelled often enough it takes
its toll psychologically.

Midfield too was majestic, with Claire Egan, Christina Heffernan
and Jackie Moran all contributing to our overall dominance
in that sector. And as for the forwards, they were magnificent
also. When you’re harried and hassled – fairly most of the
time – every time you get the ball, it’s hard to get momentum
going. But they persisted. As in ’99, Diane O’Hora was the
leader of the attack, taking on the defence with purpose and
confidence and, of course, getting the vital scores. Then
there was Michelle McGing and Emma Mullin, whose points had
equal claim to the score of the game accolade. Cora and Marcella,
though amazingly neither got on the scoreboard, worked hard
too and gave it everything. But then again, when have they
ever done otherwise?

It wasn’t about individuals on Sunday, it was a team effort,
everyone working for each other. We have superstars a plenty
on our team. On their own they make us great, but combined
with the talents of the other players, the strength of character
of the group, the genius of our management team and the backing
of our loyal supporters, we are almost invincible.

Article kindly donated by The Western

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