Mick Bohan: Genuinely, When We Started The Season, The Whole Objective Was To Steady The Ship, That Was It”


Dublin manager Mick Bohan had contemplated stepping down after last years championship exit, but he stayed on to steady the ship and has been rewarded with an All Ireland final place

Dublin manager Mick Bohan

Dublin manager Mick Bohan has enjoyed a very successful second stint in charge, winning 4 All Ireland titles in a row, five Leinster titles and two NFL Division 1 titles.

The last two years though at All Ireland level have been difficult, a defeat to Meath in the 2021 final was followed the following year by a championship exit at the quarter final stage to Donegal.

That defeat to Donegal was a low point for Mick Bohan and he had decided after that it was time to go, but when he got together with his management team prior to the start of the new season he knew a sizeable number of players were stepping away for various reasons and felt that if he and his management team also stepped away that there would have been a massive falloff, so they decided to stay for this season to as he put it steady the ship in order to hand the reins off in twelve months time. That decision though has seen him rewarded for the effort from himself and his management team of a place in tomorrow’s All Ireland decider.

“I think as a management team at that time was obviously a really low time and you know when we came together prior to the start of the season we knew there was going to be a huge turn around in personnel and I suppose we were afraid that if everything changed at the one time, if we went, that there would be a massive fall off.

“And I’m sure, while some girls had obviously already made their minds up, they were coming to the end anyway, I’m sure a couple more may have called it a day, had the whole structure changed.

“And to be honest here, I would have said, our reasoning at the start of the season was just to try and steady the ship and with a view to handing the reins over in 12 months time and i can genuinely tell you our objective was to set out to make this group competitive come summertime. That was it.”

Mick began the year and the Lidl National Football League with a new squad full of young and inexperienced mixed in with the experienced players that were still there.

To get them competitive by the summer the new young kids on the block faced a sharp learning curve which wasn’t helped by the fact they faced a difficult away fixture list that included long trips to Kerry, Cork, Galway and Donegal and although they began the campaign with a win over Meath, the new girls faced some harsh lessons along the way.

“We had two terrible hard days and I can tell you the return journey from Tralee was as tough a day as I think I’ve had with a team, no more than the time playing in Tuam, they were awful, awful, difficult days and we had it handed to us on both days.

“You come away looking at it and you see so many problems and your trying to figure out, how can you just stop some of the floods that were taking place in those games?

“They weren’t beatings, they were hidings and even the Cork game, you know where they took off at the start of that game and I remember looking out thinking that there was just so many issues and obviously we had a real good purple patch before half time, we won a couple of their kick-outs, but I think that day the goals kind of distorted the picture we had a lot of problems, so there’s the three teams, Kerry, Galway and Cork, even though we beat Cork and it showed great character that we finished the game, we still were aware of the fact that you know there was a lot of things to try and sort out. Obviously the Meath game at the start of the year they were missing a lot of their personnel from the previous year.

“It was great to start off and get a win, but we were aware of the fact that they had a lot of big guns to come back and in previous years while we might have had Lauren, Niamh McEvoy and Goldie all coming back into the fold, that wasn’t the case this year.

“Just even mentioning those like you know I think back Lindsey, Nicole Owens, Goldie, Niamh McAvoy I mean the list goes on and it wasn’t just that they were all good footballers, it was the experience they brought to the stage and we lost them all at the one time so that was difficult and so to find ourselves in this situation is obviously very pleasing, but as a team who’s been here before, you don’t want to just turn up in the day. Yeah, you want to turn up and give a real good performance.”

Despite the difficulties during the league Dublin finished a respectable third in the table with five wins from their seven outings.

Next up was the Leinster campaign and a chance to win back to back titles, it turned out to be the first watershed moment of the year as Bohan’s side dominated Meath in the final.

Up next was the group stages of the All Ireland series and an opening round game against Kerry in Parnell Park, Dublin ultimately just came up short in a pulsating game, but it was in that performance that Mick Bohan saw real light at the end of the tunnel for his side.

“The Leinster final first of all was huge for us, i think that really we fell over the line a bit when we played them in Páirc Tailteann, but in the Leinster final we completely dominated the game and while we didn’t put it on the scoreboard, it was a game we were in complete control of from start to finish so that was really pleasing.

“But the day where we probably saw a little bit of light, real light at the end of the tunnel, was the championship game against Kerry in Parnell Park, we were probably unlucky, a half block from Leah ended up in the net, it was a soft goal to start off, you know we’d probably debuts in that game, Faye O’Connell Bell played that day, Niamh Crowley played that day, Niamh Donlon came into the game in the last five or six minutes, we were obviously missing Jennifer Dunne and Ellen Gribben, so there was personnel that were missing and yet we found ourselves with twelve minutes to go and two points down.

“Now what was very disappointing is we didn’t go at the game during that period of time and they had a couple of sin-bins and I think Caoimhe in particular that day was outstanding, but I think she might have been targeted and I think in the first half she was very unlucky not to get a penalty and in the 2nd half she did get one and we missed it.

“So look you know even though they got the run on us and went seven points up, we showed great character to come back into it, but we’re very aware of the fact, between giving away soft scores or particularly goals and not finishing the opportunities we get, we won’t get that luxury this time so it’s up to us to finish those scenarios, but at least we had started to create them and i think even that day we would have flagged Kerry as the top team in the competition, we showed great character not to give up the ghost in the game that we could have.”

Another watershed moment for Mick Bohan and his side came in the All Ireland quarter final with Donegal particularly as they had defeated Dublin the previous season in the semi finals of the league and quarter finals of the championship.

“Yeah, that was huge and they were very nervous going into that amazingly enough, first time to play in Ballybofey, obviously the long road down and a good performance, a really solid performance and that certainly put a ghost to bed.

“It’s obviously great in sport to have those targets to go after, particularly as you say after beating us in a league semi final and putting an end to the championship for us last year, so yeah, we’ve had good days, a lot of them on the road away, but we’ve had good days.”

Another good day was to follow down in Semple Stadium against Cork in the semi-final, but from Mick’s perspective, was it pretty much the perfect hours football from his side.

“It was yeah, look, I mean, thrilled, they worked their backside off and you know, some of the tempo and some of the scores we got were excellent, but the game was probably a little bit discolored on the back of Abby making a couple of top drawer saves and that, you know, that could have made the game a lot tighter and we’d probably be disappointed that we let them in for those opportunities. So it’s up to us to try and make sure that we improve on that end of it, but they’re doing a lot right.”

At the end of that game speaking to a beaming Mick said “we weren’t supposed to be here”, referencing how he had viewed the season possibly going for his young side.

“As I said to you, genuinely when we started the season, the whole objective was to steady the ship, that was it, steady the ship, and try and make this group as competitive as we could come summer time.

“So to find ourselves, you know, back been as competitive as any of the teams we’ve had prior is obviously very rewarding. But we’ve been around long enough and we know that these days are tough days if you’re in the wrong dressing room at the end of it.”

One of the main things Mick and his management team have been delighted with is how quickly some of the young players have taken to senior level football, but he is quick to place the credit for that onto the senior players and the work they have done with them.

“We can’t get over that. And, you know, I think we’ve said this quite a lot. We’ve given a lot of credit to the older players because they put an awful lot of work in with them, trying to bring them through as quick as they possibly could. But look, judgment day, like all else is forgotten when you come to these big days and it’s up to us now to put in a really good performance.”

As for the All Ireland final Mick is acutely aware his side will need to be on their toes from the start as Kerry’s game plan all year is to begin quickly, build up and sizeable lead and sit-in and then play on the counter attack.

With a number of his side starting their first final some might think nerves will affect those young inexperienced players but Mick Bohan has another theory on that and in fact it sometimes nerves affect the more experienced players than exuberant fearlessness of youth.

“For sure, and that seems to be the trend in their games that they’ve been putting up a lead, and then probably becoming a little bit defensive to try and defend that lead ,but it’s interesting, ultimately, you know, some players have huge experience on this day, and then others have almost very little.

“But there’s something with youth as well, that lack of knowledge with youths where you don’t know what’s actually coming at you. So therefore, the fear isn’t as great. But sometimes, you know, if you’ve been around the block and you know what’s actually ahead of you, sometimes that actually curtails you more.”

All the talk going into the men’s final two weeks ago was about David Clifford and all the talk going into tomorrow’s final is all about Kerry’s Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Mick is quite aware of the threat Ní Mhuircheartaigh brings and all the talk surrounding her, but he is also acutely aware that Kerry as a whole are a good outfit and Louise is not the only threat they will have to deal with on the day.

“For sure yeah and look, sometimes that’s difficult on the player because obviously Louise is a top drawer player, but the fact that she’s been spoken about so much, it does put pressure on her, but ultimately, we’re very aware of the fact that as much as she’s a threat, they’re a really good outfit and it’s up to us, there’s lots of jobs we need to get right not just on her.”