FOOTBALL: “To have that one, the repeat of the All-Ireland final in Croke Park is a great way for us to lead into our summer championship” – Niamh Collins
By DARAGH SMALL (Niamh Collins of Dublin during the TG4 Leinster LGFA Senior Championship Captain’s Evening 2022 at Johnstown Estate Hotel in Meath. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)
Dublin joint-captain Niamh Collins believes that playing in a TG4 Leinster final this year can help propel the Sky Blues to new heights in 2022.
Last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists take on their conquerors, Meath, in the provincial decider at Croke Park on Saturday.
The arch rivals have met on two occasions since last September’s showpiece event, with Dublin winning their meeting during the league and Meath gaining revenge earlier in the Leinster campaign.
But the 29-year-old Foxrock-Cabinteely defender is delighted to have that rivalry brewing with another competitive match ahead of the All-Ireland series.
“We are going to have played the All-Ireland champions twice before we get to the group stages of the championship, so it will keep us sharp,” said Collins.
“It will only be a good thing for us heading into the All-Ireland series. And it’s been good, it’s great to have a bit more of a structure around the competition.
“We have won the competition by default for the last few years. That’s not where you want Ladies football to be at. You want to be competing and winning the trophy in the right way by winning a game. We are delighted to have three games in Leinster now, not just to play but to get game time.
“It’s great to have the Leinster final there too, every opportunity to play in Croke Park is brilliant. To have that one, the repeat of the All-Ireland final in Croke Park is a great way for us to lead into our summer championship.
“I love championship, it’s great to have it back in the summer as well, the 2020 one in the winter was a stark difference to the summer football. It’s great to be back playing in the summer.”
Meath’s shock All-Ireland final victory last year was difficult to take but Dublin bounced back during the league, only to suffer a similarly disappointing loss at the hands of Donegal in the semi-final.
However, Mick Bohan’s side have plenty of experience in their ranks and Collins said that kind of defeat, where they conceded two late goals, impacted the squad ahead of the championship.
“It acted to focus the minds, conceding six points in three minutes is not really acceptable and we can’t just say that it happens,” said Collins.
“We definitely had to have a long hard look at ourselves, and how we managed to let that chance slip up and lose out a chance at competing for a league title. We use it as a focus point.
“We had been planning for, hopefully, a three-week lead into a league final and instead we had a six-week lead into the first round in Leinster, which changed the dynamic somewhat. It was fortunate but we just had to learn from it.
“Everyone wants to be playing games. The prolonged training periods, you can get a lot of work done but sometimes that work isn’t very enjoyable. We focus a lot on our conditioning but also how we want to play the game, how we are moving as a unit.
“What went wrong in the league and what can we do to put that right in the championship. It was a six-week learning block which hopefully we are just rolling into action for the next few weeks.”