By DECLAN ROONEY
Forget tradition: Dublin’s forward Niamh McEvoy will not be exchanging shirts with her opposite number after today’s TG4 All-Ireland senior final.
In Mick Bohan’s first year back in charge we got a glimpse behind the curtain of this Dublin inter-county team during their acclaimed documentary ‘Blues Sisters’. It certainly opened a few eyes as to the level of training and commitment that ladies teams were undertaking, and introduced the Sky Blue players to a brand new audience.
But even before then the Dublin ladies have been an open book. In the lead up to their 2015 All-Ireland final with Cork, one of the team’s sponsors conducted a series of behind the scenes interviews with the team, during which McEvoy nailed her colours to the mast.
“I’ve seen people in the past swapping jerseys at the end of a game with another county. I definitely would never swap a Dublin jersey. It’s a massive honour and privilege,” McEvoy said.
McEvoy started the 2010 All-Ireland final win for Dublin over Tyrone, which was her maiden season in the blue shirt. She’s held on to that winning jersey for deal life, but after collecting three more from loosing All-Irelands, she’s looking to complete the set today against Cork.
“Last year was incredible. This will be my fifth final to be involved in in a row and each year the crowd seems to get bigger each year. One of my abiding memories was just running out and realising that the upper tier on the Cusack side was open. It felt like the whole stadium was full when we ran out.
“I was involved in the throw in at the start and the noise levels were like nothing I've ever experienced before which was phenomenal and it's something we hope will be emulated this weekend.”
McEvoy wears a different shade of blue with a green, diagonal stripe when representing her club, St Sylvester’s, and but there is a definite familiarity between the two camps for her. For the All-Ireland semi-final win over Galway the No. 13, 14 and 15 Dublin shirts were filled by Sylvester’s girls: captain Sinéad Aherne, McEvoy and Nicole Owens, while the same numbers have been allocated for today. The club's U-10s, meanwhile, will also feature today in an exhibition match at half-time.
“It's a special time for the club. I know last year the homecoming was in Malahide because Sinéad is the captain and Mick was saying it was a testament to Sylvester's that there was three of us on the team.
“But even since that, we have three more girls in the panel as well and they’re pushing us now too. It's great for the club and there are very, very good for getting behind us and supporting us.
“We're great support for each other we get lifts together to training and we become very close over the last few years. I think sometimes you can tell on the pitch that we played together with the club.
“From the other girls there is still a bit of talk about how we haven't won club championship yet but we have a number of younger girls coming through and we're looking to work on that.”
To date Dublin have won two All-Ireland finals, but never having beaten the red shirt of Cork in the decider must surely rankle – no matter how often those involved tell us it doesn’t. Roll back to that 2015 video again and McEvoy explains the pain of loosing to the Munster girls.
“2014, that was really, really heart breaking, it’s not something you get over very easily,” said McEvoy. “As much as you are bonded as a team, when that final whistle goes it is a very, very lonely place in the middle of Croke Park.”
But this time, as she faces a fifth final in a row, McEvoy is happy to look in the mirror and focus on the girl in blue as she gets ready to go to war.
“We know they're always epic encounters when we play Cork. It's always a spectacle and it's something that people really look forward to.
“But we don't really think about the opposition too much now, particularly at the start of the year when we just set out to get to the pinnacle and win the All-Ireland. Certainly Cork are a very formidable team and we give them the respect to that of course they are due.
“Under Mick Bohan we have taken to concentrating on ourselves a lot. Now we’re just keen to get out there and be involved in the battle.”