Three years, three TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football finals for Molly Lamb – but there’s a statistic that needs addressing

An All-Ireland minor medallist in 2012, and a three-time U21 winner, Lamb is desperate to get her hands on a senior medal. The versatile Kilmacud Crokes player can operate at midfield or in the half-forward line and she’s one of the ’95 babies’ who have graduated through the Dublin ranks to make their mark in the elite grade.

But when Lamb (21) first made the step-up to senior level, she admits that it took her some time to adjust. Struggling with the transition, Lamb’s confidence levels plummeted but she found her mojo again with the U21s and now feels fully immersed in the set-up.

Lamb says: “Tough time – the speed and physicality, massive difference.
“It definitely takes you a few weeks and months. When I first came in in January (2014), I really struggled with it. I was low on confidence and didn’t back myself at all. But I played in the U21 championship and did well enough in that.”

Lamb won the Aisling McGing (U21) cup on three occasions and this year, she had the honour of captaining the Dublin team to glory. But now she wants to land the big one as the Sky Blues go in search of just a second Brendan Martin Cup success next Sunday – and their first since 2010.

Lamb admits that she’ll prepare quietly, and in her own way, far from the madding crowd in the days to come. The annual Kilmacud 7s have been held at her home club on the day before the All-Ireland final but Lamb’s given that a skip in recent years, explaining: “There’s no malice in that but the day before the match, you just want to unwind and relax, maybe think about something else.”

That’s simply for her own head space, to avoid any unnecessary distractions and talk about the match that’s coming on Sunday. She wouldn’t like to be on her feet all day either, sapping the energy from her body ahead of what lies in store against Cork. And so she’ll keep things simple, meet her friends for lunch and while away the hours before the big game comes sharply into focus.

All things going to plan, Lamb will be part of a successful Dublin team at Croke Park and a senior medal would complete the set nicely.

Lamb smiles: “You dare to dream, I suppose. In the last three years, we’ve been U21 champions and they’ve been great occasions, especially last year when we beat Cork in a really good final, a really good game of football. That gives you a taste of it. U21 is great but senior is what you want to be winning.”

In many ways, Lamb is living the dream. In 2010, she was part of Dublin’s All-Ireland U16 winning set-up and remembers travelling by bus from Kilmacud to Croke Park and witnessing the seniors create history. Four years later, Lamb was appearing alongside some of the heroines she had looked up to before linking up with the senior squad.

She says: “Like Sinead Goldrick, a player I looked at when I was younger and I thought she was great. In my first training session, Sinead asked me where I lived. She knew I lived near her and she drove me into training.

“Even though these girls for years and years have been big names and All-Stars, they’re very level-headed and very inclusive of everyone.”

A simple, yet brilliant, move like that on Goldrick’s behalf helped the settling-in process for Lamb. But when she lined out in her first senior final two years ago, against Cork, Lamb admits that the occasion got the better of her.

She adds: “In the first year I was overwhelmed but it was still a massive occasion and the biggest game you’ll ever play. We haven’t won a senior All-Ireland in a long time – I want to get that one in the bank.”

Coming from a GAA-mad family, it was perhaps inevitable that Lamb would go on to make her mark as a leading inter-county star. Her father, Pat, and mother, Daphne, are both long-serving club stalwarts and brother Conor was member of the team that stormed to Dublin and Leinster men’s senior glory in 2010.

Pat is a former club chairman of Crokes while Daphne is currently the ladies football chairperson. Molly says: “I tried to play hockey for a while but I was reeled back in!

“My three brothers are all abroad at the moment – one in Hong Kong (Ruairi), one in France (Padraig) and one in Canada (Conor).

“Padraig was home for a month over the summer and it was nice to catch up.”

As the big day approaches, Dublin are well steeled for what lies in store. They emerged from a titanic semi-final clash with Mayo, as Sinead Aherne’s last gasp free nailed victory, and Lamb reflects: “Massive – maybe the last few years we might not have come through that.

“To come and get the result, that was good for us as a group. Semi-finals are always nerve-wracking and we didn’t want to lose at any cost.”

And for these Dublin players, defeat is not an option as they look ahead to another final with Cork – the third successive year that the counties have locked horns in the September showpiece. Lamb certainly doesn’t want to feel like she has after the last two – when Cork were crowned Brendan Martin Cup winners.

She says: “Absolutely not – we want to abandon that feeling! We were a different team in 2015 compared to 2014. Some of the girls went away on J1s but they’re back now and we’re a different team again, with different girls.

“And a different result, hopefully.”

Article by Jackie Cahill featured in the Irish Independent.

Tickets for Sunday’s TG4 All Ireland final Dublin v Cork are on sale now from tickets.ie and usual GAA tickets outlets