Kerry boss explains how 'medical wonder' Siofra O'Shea played All-Ireland final three weeks after doing ACL
Dublin manager Mick Bohan hailed his charges for the manner in which they put a championship-winning side together after making a host of changes on and off the park last autumn.
Bohan said winning an All-Ireland was not on their radar when they started plotting 2023 and that’s what makes this success so sweet.
They held control throughout an entertaining contest at Croke Park and Bohan said the display delivered by the Dublin players meant they are thoroughly deserved TG4 All-Ireland senior champions for 2023.
“Incredible. I thought their work-rate was immense. We’d obviously been on the receiving end twice from Kerry and we know how good they are. The work this group has done, we had no choice,” he said.
“We were on our knees back in October/November time. When you win something, people kind of dismiss that a little bit. If you knew where we were and we were trying to maximise everything we had.
"Genuinely, the group will tell you this, we were just trying to make this thing competitive.
“We didn’t foresee this. There is a little bit of knowledge around the scenes in this camp. The likes of Frankie Roebuck and Seaghan Kearney, Paul Casey and Derek Murray.
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"Guys who have soldiered with the lads’ teams. That bit of knowledge and as Frankie kept telling me all year, you don’t have to have the best deck to win the card game.
"Sami Dowling came in with us this year as an S&C and he’s brought a completely new level to it. We’ve seen that in all of the sessions, they just worked their backsides off. That is obviously the most important trait in sport, regardless of what you do.
“You obviously have to have knowledge and you have to have a little bit of savvy as to how to manage the games, but if you don’t work, you’re not in the ball park. All year we’d seen that. That day in Parnell Park against Kerry, we saw. Seven points down and they came, and they fought for everything.”
Hannah Tyrrell led the way with an outstanding haul of 0-8, all of which came in the opening half, as Dublin claimed their sixth TG4 All-Ireland senior title.
Dublin, appearing in their first Brendan Martin Cup decider since losing out to Meath in 2021, were in control right from the start and added to the All-Ireland victory their male counterparts enjoyed at the expense of Kerry two weeks earlier.
Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh was scorer-in-chief for the Kingdom with 1-7, but the Munster outfit ultimately fell short in the senior showpiece for the second year in succession.
This was despite the miraculous return of their captain Siofra O'Shea. She tore her cruciate knee ligament in training on July 23 but somehow managed to come on three weeks later in the All-Ireland final.
'A medical wonder,' 21-year-old O'Shea played the last 20 minutes of the game.
"That was the best kept secret in Ireland for the last couple of weeks," said Kerry joint manager Declan Quill.
"We've had Siofra in Santry a couple of times. They called her a medical wonder.
"They found no reason why she couldn't take part when she did a particular program.
""We closed down our training sessions, I suppose people were wondering why. All the girls kept it in house that Siofra was going to be available for the All-Ireland final.
"It was the case maybe after we had the initial investigations into her knee done that, yeah, there is a tear there, she is going to have surgery but look, she did, she did take part. She is our captain, she was training all along. We couldn't start her because we couldn't take that risk I suppose."
Dublin, playing in their ninth senior final in just 10 years, stormed into the game with points from Tyrrell and Orlagh Nolan inside the opening 60 seconds. The Kingdom subsequently got up and running with a close-range free by stand-in captain Ní Mhuircheartaigh, but Tyrrell restored the Jackies’ two-point cushion with a similar effort at the opposite end.
The former Ireland rugby international maintained her excellent start to the contest with a second point from play, while Jennifer Dunne also joined the Dublin scoresheet in direct response to a score by Kerry wing-forward Niamh Carmody.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh fired over a point after being released on goal in the 13th-minute, but with Nolan exerting a major influence at centre-forward, Dublin were dictating affairs. A sequence of six points without reply – five of them from the majestic Tyrrell and one via the boot of Caoimhe O’Connor – put Bohan’s side in a powerful position and it took a Ní Mhuircheartaigh free to bring their lead down to seven at 0-11 to 0-4 at the interval.
Although Kerry made a bright start to the second half with unanswered points from Carmody and Ní Mhuircheartaigh, Kate Sullivan and Dublin captain Carla Rowe were on hand to cancel out these efforts in swift fashion. Ní Mhuircheartaigh’s dead-ball prowess yielded two more points for the Kingdom, only for Dublin to move nine points clear (0-17 to 0-8) on 48 minutes with four scores on the bounce courtesy of Niamh Hetherton, Rowe (two) and Dunne.
To their credit, Kerry fought until the bitter end and Ní Mhuircheartaigh’s palmed finish to the net on 55 minutes formed part of a mini revival from them in the closing stages but they were unable to close the gap.
Joint manager Declan Quill praised his players for all their efforts but on the day Dublin had an edge on them.
“The girls put their heart and soul into it and there's no doubting that, and everybody knows that,” said Quill. “But at the end of the day, Dublin were just that superior team on the day.
"That's it, finals, you know, they take a shape of their own at times and they got off to a great start and I suppose we were chasing it for the rest of the game. There's nothing we can say that's going to make it any better right now.
“I'm just so proud of the girls in terms of how they've carried themselves since we've been involved with them over the last four years.
"Winning national titles, getting to two All-Ireland finals. You see the games and what we started off with a couple of years ago, where there was actually nobody at our games, to two weeks ago in Thurles. Absolutely the crescendo of the support we have and again today it was fabulous.”
“I think these girls deserve great credit. There's no Brendan Martin coming home, but they deserve huge credit for what they've done for ladies football. We've enjoyed being with them for so long, it's been brilliant.”