Sinead Aherne: It’s Difficult Sometimes To Come In And Not Feel Like You’ve Taken A Chance From Someone Else To Put On The Jersey


The return of Sinead Aherne to squad in the middle of the season caught many by surprise and the Dublin stalwart may have a big say in the outcome of Sundays All Ireland final

Dublin’s Sinead Aherne in action against Waterford

Since her debut in 2003 Dublin’s Sinead Aherne has established herself as one, if not the greatest player to ever grace the game.

During her glittering career Aherne won five All Ireland titles and became the first player to captain her side to four All Ireland titles in a row, she won 13 Leinster titles, two NFL Division 1 titles, two NFL Division 2 titles, seven All Star Awards and the 2018 TG4 Senior Players’ Player of the Year award.

Although there was no retirement announcement at the start of this season, many believed that was the case due to Sinead’s absence during Dublin’s league and Leinster championship campaigns.

But to everyone’s surprise the diminutive forward was named among the Dublin substitutes for the All Ireland group game against Cavan. But did Mick Bohan have to do much arm twisting to convince Sinead Aherne to return to the fold.

“Yeah look I suppose it probably wasn’t something I anticipated happening, but you know I ended up kind of providing cover at times in terms of injuries for in house squad games and that.

“And when the league kind of finished up with club, it was sure come in and do a bit of training while your here and keep yourself going and one thing led to another and yeah, look, I suppose Mick asked me if I’d come in for a short stint just to finish off the season and again provide a bit of cover and experience.”

It wasn’t something Sinead had anticipated would happen this year and she was very conscious that she didn’t want to upset the dynamic of the squad or feel like she was denying another player the chance to wear the jersey.

“Look, I suppose I was pretty conscious I hadn’t come back early on in the season and the girls have been working savagely hard since the beginning of the season and it’s difficult sometimes to come in and not feel like you’ve taken a chance from someone else to put on the jersey, which obviously I take you very seriously in terms of what that means to people.

“But look I’m privileged to be part of it again and to see the work they’re doing they’ve been inspiring and there’s something magnetic about it when you kind of get back in there and you’re keen to still prove yourself to a certain extent, so yeah look I suppose it just kind of grew legs.”

Although there were some familiar faces in the squad there had been a huge turnover of players from the previous season and stepping back in Sinead was delighted to see some of those who had not been named to start the previous season grabbing their opportunity.

“It’s been really encouraging to see in terms of, you know, the amount of turnover that was there of faces that have stepped away.

“But to see the likes of Kate Sullivan, Caoimhe O’Connor, Jody Egan that were maybe there for three or four years that hadn’t got their the name of the starting sheet, to see them grasp the kind of opportunity and move into that, you know, the second tier almost in terms of they’re no longer the new kids on the block, to see those players come in and and just have that fearless youth and exuberance and to get their chance and absolutely take it, it’s been great to see.

“And then obviously you’ve got your older, I would say the older crew at this stage, still very young to me, the likes of Carla, Leah, Lauren, Martha Byrne, they’ve just been bringing just in terms of the grasp that was really needed to be taken with probably the squad being in a bit of a difficult place at the end of last season and the couple of tough years in terms of where we had been and where we finished up.

“So I think there’s a lot of difficult conversations that went on between players and management. And I think you have to credit the job that’s been done from both of those groups this year in just really facing that down, a fantastic I would say level of development that’s gone on to bring the squad from the beginning of the year to where it is now.”

And one of the things Sinead Aherne has noticed since returning is the change in attitude of those girls she played with last year, who have stepped into leadership roles and driven the whole thing along this season.

“It’s funny. Like I see the likes of Martha and Lauren talking about the new kids and how sometimes they drive them crazy in terms of not understanding what it takes to play intercounty football and you’re kind of thinking back and it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was thinking the same thing about those girls.

“But that’s the way it goes. I think the longer your here the more you realize what a privilege it is, the more you realize what you’ve got to put in to actually win and I think while you have the players that come in and they just, in a great way nearly, just don’t see pressure and they just don’t see what everybody else maybe has put into to do this and the level of support that we’re being given.

“But like, look at the management team, I think they have just gone and grabbed this by the scruff of the neck this year and had to drag it into where it is now and they have done a great job with it so look, I think that’s a bit of an indication for them in terms of facing down the challenges that were laid down at the end of last season and as I mentioned the senior players that have been there, they have been phenomenal in kind of moulding the group and there’s probably still a bit of work to do, but look it’s the first year in what I would say is a development journey that this group will go on but it’s been fantastic to see it.”

Sinead will be participating in her 12th Senior All Ireland final on Sunday, for her the is hugely exciting occasion but can also be a little nerve racking.

“Yeah well you flip flop a bit between I suppose feeling nervous over it, but also it’s a hugely exciting thing to be part of, any footballer would relish the thoughts of going into Croke Park on any day, let alone on All Ireland final day.

“I’ve been very lucky to do it a number of times over the years and you want to perform, that is I suppose your first and foremost thought, but you also have to kind of, you know, grasp the day as well to a certain extent and just to really produce the best you can out of that and part of that is acknowledging the work that’s gone in to get there, but also, the team that you’re going into play, the jersey you’re going into represent, your families, your clubs.

“So, yeah, it’s a fantastic, you know, seven, eight days that we’ve got coming up, and we are all really looking forward to it.”

And to the opponents, Kerry, what have Sinead made of them this year?

“I think you’d probably say that they’ve been the best team in the country this year, certainly the most consistent.

“They had a great league and put together a really strong panel in terms of the numbers that they use and got a great win in Croke Park earlier on in the year, so look, I think they were disappointed, probably with how they played in the All Ireland final last year and they’ve really taken that experience and you know leveraged it i suppose this year in how they have see it in how they’ve set out their stall.

“Look they gave us a good trimming down in Tralee early on in the league and we got a bit closer in Parnell Park, but I think you would have to be impressed with their game management and they’ve been building nicely over the last couple of years with the kind of solid management and experienced heads and they’re Kerry, they play a lovely brand of football, and they can hurt you if you let them.”

As for nerves on the big day is there any specific advice that the veteran forward can pass onto the young players playing in their first one.

“No, and I think every player probably takes that differently so, you know, it’s hard to be prescriptive in terms of this is what you should do, because different things work for different people.

“I mean, I remember, my first final run out, I didn’t feel anything. It was a strange phenomenon when I think about it now, in terms of no nerves, no real excitement, i think you just think days like that are gonna come every day, which they don’t.

“But sometimes that’s no harm, you know, so I think it’s just trying to focus on our own processes, we’ve spoken a little bit about in terms of what the day is gonna be like and you know, what they might face, what it might feel like and I think it’s just good to kind of almost let players process that consciously and not let it slip into their subconscious where all of a sudden, on the day it’s like oh, you know we’ve spoken about it in terms of the older players, but I think the players that are there, we have the girls like Kate and Caoimhe that have been in there, played there before so this isn’t a new experience for them and the girls that are, you know, first foot in the door that likes of the Niamh Crowley’s and that, I think they’re young enough that they don’t experience pressure or that they’re just really looking forward to it.”