Vengeance not a motivator for Dublin Ladies
By John Harrington
Dublin Ladies Football team manager Mick Bohan isn’t buying into the notion that his players have a point to prove against Cork in Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland Final.
Dublin were defeated in three All-Ireland Finals in a row by the Rebels from 2014 to 2016, but Bohan doesn’t believe a thirst for vengeance should be a prime motivator.
Rather than blame Cork for the heartache they suffered in those years, Bohan has told his players to look a little closer to home.
“It’s funny, and I’m not sidestepping this, I wouldn’t have that attitude to sport,” he said.
“Before this year we came, we would have spoken to the group about those scenarios.
“It wasn’t Cork who beat them at Croke Park or the weather – they weren’t good enough and it’s as simple as that.
“If you win a competition you are good enough, and if you don’t you are not good enough and you haven’t done things you should have done.
“That’s what you have to address. It’s not the colour of the jersey or the name of the team, there’s inadequacies you’ve had yourself and I think that’s facing the mirror rather than a deflection, so we would have taken that approach with them last year from the off.
“We lost a league semi-final against Cork (in 2017) because we weren’t good enough – simple as that. And on Sunday, the team who has done the most work and prepared the best will end up victorious and that’s the way it should be.”
From the moment he took charge of this Dublin team ahead of the 2017 season, Bohan’s message to the players was a blunt one – they weren’t good enough.
But he also told them if they did what he told them to do they would improve and have a much better chance of achieving the success they craved.
A big focus of his coaching approach was to improve their basic skill level and spatial awareness with two-ball drills, and it’s an area he continues to work hard on with his team.
“I still see that it's a weakness in the women's game,” said Bohan. “I still see that there's an awful lot of things that aren't executed that should be. But they're improving.
“We're 18 months with them at this stage and we feel that they've improved quite a lot from the time that we came in.
“But they've bought into it from the point of view that they know themselves that there's a void they need to fill. So isn't it lovely to have those targets for the group.
“That's not trophy-driven or medal-based, it's purely on improving the standards of themselves.”
Dublin’s panel has undergone a considerable makeover since they won the 2017 All-Ireland Championship.
Players like Sarah McCaffrey, Rachel Ruddy, Fiona Hudson, and Molly Lamb aren’t currently involved due to either travel or injury, and a new generation of young players have been drafted into the squad.
“We brought 12 in and we certainly feel the squad has got stronger this year than it was last year,” said Bohan.
“I said this throughout to week to the group, it's a testament to the starting team that they haven't handed the jersies over. There's been a lot of pressure on them from the chasing group.
“We're happy with where we are because, essentially, we haven't come with minor All-Ireland winning teams. We feel we've a lot of work to do to bring up the standard of the group, but that desire to play for Dublin is there which is huge.
“I remember back to 2003 and our group when we couldn’t get 30 people who wanted to play for Dublin, so it has obviously evolved quite a lot in the last 15 years since then.”
Cork might have beaten Dublin in three All-Ireland titles from 2014 to 2016 and won 11 All-Irelands in 12 years from 2005 to 2016, but they’ll go into Sunday’s Final as underdogs.
Many of the star players who made Cork the dominant force in Ladies Football for such a long time have retired, but Bohan believes it’s wrong to dismiss their current team as a callow one.
“Talking about an inexperienced team, I mean there’s three of them that haven’t got All-Ireland medals and that’s fair experience in anyone’s books,” he said.
“They have serious forwards, Ciara O’Sullivan, Eimear Scally, Orla Finn. Libby Coppinger got player of the match in the Westmeath game and is supposed to be one of the more quieter ones for them. Saoirse Noonan was a brilliant underage player so they have serious threats up front.
“If you look at their scorelines over the summer, they have really crucified teams when given the opportunity. The bit of inexperience for them comes at the back, that’s probably where the big changes have come and I suppose the strengths we have is the huge amount of experience in our squad.
“Every one of them that starts on Sunday will have played in previous All-Ireland finals, including Siobhan McGrath who wasn’t with us last year.
“So that’s a serious thing to bring into a competition at this level, because everyone knows the cauldron on that day does strange things to people, so we are very happy that a lot of them have experienced the big day.”