Mick Bohan: “At this point in time we are still chasing something we haven’t achieved yet.”

Dublin manager Mick Bohan keeps an eye on the action as his team took on Waterford in the All Ireland Championship group stage.
Dublin manager Mick Bohan keeps an eye on the action as his team took on Waterford in the All Ireland Championship group stage.

Dublin manager Mick Bohan is genuinely excited about the challenge Meath will pose to his side in tomorrow’s TG4 Senior All Ireland Ladies Football Championship Final.

Although tomorrow’s opponents are unfamiliar to Bohan, All Ireland Final day certainly isn’t as he prepares his side for their fifth in a row since he took over in December of 2016.

But how does this years season and preparation for the All Ireland final compare to the four previous ones, that Mick Bohan has managed Dublin in, particularly compared to last season which was void of any supporters.

“This is the best year we’ve had as a group says Bohan, we’ve throughly enjoyed the season, the condensed nature of it I think has been fantastic, the weather helps for sure and obviously preparing for an All Ireland Final at anytime is something special and is something obviously we value.

“I think the atmosphere in the group has changed, I don’t know whether it’s kind of a combination of coming through the tough covid year as everybody has and then obviously seeing things open up, and there is a kind of excitement around.

“This year it’s the small things, for example last year we couldn’t have any meetings and this year we do and we keep it to our fourteen minutes and we’ve become actually proficient at a fourteen minute meeting, it’s amazing what you can get into it when you have to.

“But even the post match meals, we are now eating together again and I don’t know if you can actually explain how important that is, that twenty minutes at the end of a training session where we can actually have some social interaction, for them with their friends and for us with our management team to discuss things, that was gone last year.

“I actually on a personal level found that I didn’t get any enjoyment out of last year and I mean that, I didn’t get any enjoyment, but this year they are coming along to training smiling, they are enjoying their football, we’ve lots more games because of the fact of the condensed season, so there is less training, so I have to say I’ve throughly enjoyed the summer.”

Each year Dublin continue to strive to improve and get better, that can happen with the introduction of new faces to the team who bring something a little different to team from the previous year.

Hannah Tyrrell has been that new face this season and she has shone throughout the season and Mick Bohan has not only been impressed with her performances on the pitch but also how she enhanced the group off it.

“First of all I didn’t expect her to be here because all things being equal I would be fairly sure if there was a world cup this summer as there was supposed to be I don’t think we would have had her, in fact we wouldn’t have had her.

“I met her a year ago, I’d gone out to watch a club game and she had done quite well in it and I got her number off one of the girls and i made contact and i said look we’ll have a coffee at some stage during the year and have a chat because I had been told that it was something in her mind when her playing career in rugby was finished that she has always intended to come back and try and play with Dublin.

“I suppose the doubts in her own head were, would she be able to transfer over again, what the skill sets would be like and then by pure coincidence I met her in McSports and she was getting a bit of gym equipment herself during the pandemic and we had a conversation and sure enough when the six nations was finished I saw her name come up on my phone and I thought, this will be interesting.

“So she asked us to give her the opportunity for a couple weeks to see if she actually would make it back at this level and we couldn’t get over her in the first four or five weeks, it’s not easy for someone to come from a different code.

“But what was probably fortuitous for her, unlike if it was a male trying to do the same as I think physically their body mechanics wouldn’t work the same way, because of the muscle mass they actually put on, but the girls, certainly ones playing in her position don’t and that helped.

“She has a particularly good left foot obviously the fact that she was a place-kicker helped that and after losing Noelle Healy to get someone of her magnitude to come back into the group was great.

“And it wasn’t just the player, it’s amazing your talking about the dynamics and new challenges or whatever to keep the group motivated, she came in from a professional background in elite sports and it was nearly like the group were searching for something extra and her approach, she shared things, different things from her experiences and any group at this level I’m sure would be the same, they were just mad for information, so she was really good and that helped her obviously settle in because she was very open and obviously therefore the group were very receptive to it.

“So it was a double whammy it wasn’t just the footballer, it was the group searching for something else and I don’t think it would have worked if it wasn’t like that because it’s still difficult to come into a new group no matter who you are, so they were very open, but very open because of the fact she fed them with stuff that enhanced them as a group.

Tomorrow Dublin go in search of a fifth consecutive title and publicly there has been no talk of it, but Mick Bohan admits even among the group privately there has be no discussion of going for the five in a row.

“It’s a funny thing, for some people it’s one in a row, for Hannah Tyrrell this is her first All Ireland Final, we have kids here who are now only starting their journey, so five in a row, we are not shying away from it, the facts will be if we are successful, that’s what the number will be, but for some, like Lyndsey Davey who has lost the same number of All Ireland’s as she has won, that number doesn’t matter, it’s not a matter of being afraid of it and not discussing it, but those type of things are when you look in the rear view mirror when your career is finished they become significant.

“At this point in time we are still chasing something we haven’t achieved yet, which is to give the performance of our lives on our biggest day and we still haven’t done that.

“That is very much very high on the agenda with everybody here, that has been a quest since we broke the duck in 2017, to play this game at the highest level we possibly can.

“I thought 2018 was a good All Ireland Final, 2017 I thought we played some really decent football, but it was the start of the journey and obviously it was just a matter that day of trying to win something, after that it wasn’t, it was trying to win it in a certain style.

“2019 was horrific, the worst day I’ve ever been involved with a team the conditions were shocking, 2020, look last year was survival, it was just getting out of the house, it wasn’t even the same atmosphere for anyone, sure lots of you (media) were there, it just wasn’t the same it was eerie.

“This year they are playing with a sense of freedom and I really hope that they give the performance that they are capable of.”

Dublin haven’t played Meath in the championship since 2016 that unfamiliarity will bring its own challenges for Mick and his team, it’s a challenge though that genuinely excites the Dublin manager.

“First of all it’s exciting and I mean that and obviously while there might not have been huge rivalry between Dublin and Meath in women’s football, there is a huge rivalry between Dublin and Meath based purely on the borders.

“I still think back to when Meath were competing at the highest level in the men’s game and the famous statement down in Clonliff House one day before a Leinster Final were a fella told the Meath contingent that they had already taken over Ashbourne and they were coming for Navan.

“So that rivalry has been there forever and even people like Sean Boylan you have messaged the bit of fun that’s attached to it, but what did it mean to us, I’ll tell you what it meant, it meant work and lots of it very quickly because we had nothing on Meath.

“Every other team in the competition we have stuff on them, you gather it up and obviously you keep adding to it, so we were really busy for three or four days trying to get stuff and looking back over games, key players and even that whole thing of just learning names.

“Obviously there’s girls like Emma Duggan and Vikki Wall you’d know, but 90% of the team you wouldn’t know, that’s a fact, but it was great because it’s something new and fresh and ultimately that stimulates you.”

One of the challenges Meath will pose in the final is their defensive set-up, although while Mick Bohan thinks yes a certain level of patience may be needed at times to create the scoring opportunities his team will be going out to impose their style on the game and play an attacking type of game.

“Yes patience, but at the same time genuinely we are going out to try and play the game, like we have our own style, much and all that we have to be mindful of Meath and their structures, we want to play the game, we want to play our game and we have a lot of pride in playing an attacking type of game, we equally have pride in trying to defend well.

“We have averaged 3-14 a game over the course of the championship and whether it’s going to be more difficult or otherwise, that’s obviously going to be our challenge, but there is nothing like Croke Park to find open spaces and no better pitch, so we will embrace it.”