‘More focused’ Dublin hoping to add second league title to All-Ireland four-in-a-row

DUBLIN CAPTAIN SINÉAD Aherne says the unique circumstances surrounding the league this year enabled her side to be “a bit more focused” for the competition.

While Mick Bohan’s four-in-a-row All-Ireland-winning side are a dominant force in Ladies football at the moment, their league form has certainly been mixed.

They won only their first Division 1 crown back in 2018 and failed to reach the final in 2019. They also finished in fourth place in the top-tier table in last year’s campaign which could not conclude with a final due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dublin are back in a Division 1 decider this weekend against Cork, and will go into the tie with an unbeaten run of results including a one-point win over their Munster rivals last month.

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Cork are effectively the defending league champions as they were the winners of the competition in 2019.

“With the nature of the league this year, and being so close to championship and being a bit further on in terms of the small number of games, the ground and the conditions and all that, it’s probably set us up to be a bit more focused than we probably might have been in years gone by,” says Aherne, who is now in her 18th season with the Dubs.

“It’s been a great experience and the games we’ve had so far have brought us on. To have a final now to prepare us for the championship is great and with a bit of silverware on the line it would be lovely to take that away.

Elaborating further on how the league in 2021 differs from other years, Aherne adds:

“League games, generally, you wouldn’t have a lot of our younger college players and conditions obviously are very different. So you’re kind of working with a smaller panel and you’ve more games so you’re trying more things, more players, getting a lot of new players in.

“We generally would have had a very big breakdown with the nature of the Leinster championship, maybe one game only is all we were playing so we knew we had a big chunk of time to prepare for the championship.

“It was just trying to peak at the right time and to find your form but obviously with a shorter season this year that’s very much a different prospect.”

Dublin will be without the services of some crucial players when they take to the field later this evening. Veteran defender Sinéad Goldrick is still nursing a hamstring injury which required surgery, while star forward Noelle Healy has retired from inter-county football.

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Like the camogie final last weekend, this fixture will also be a pilot event to test the gradual return of fans with 4,000 spectators permitted to attend the game.

“I suppose last year was very different,” says Aherne, referring to the All-Ireland final which was played at an empty Croke Park.

“You didn’t have family there and I suppose even afterwards, like, the team didn’t even get a chance to lift the cup, we haven’t seen it since. It was very much a kind of, you know, nearly done very quickly.

“Then there was a huge break before any of us got back together. That was very strange, even last year when we walked into Croke Park there was nobody around the place. It would be nice to see a bit of life around it again and with the weather and the sunny conditions, it’ll bring a bit of atmosphere hopefully.”

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