Sinead Aherne: Croke Park opportunity is crucial for promotion of the sport

The Dublin captain was speaking ahead of the league game against Mayo

BY Oisin Langan 14:42 Wednesday 22 March 2017, 14:42 22 Mar 2017

Sinead Aherne Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

"From little acorns" is both an incredibly overused but yet apt saying for this week's double header in Croke Park which see’s Dublin play Mayo in the Lidl Ladies Football League and Dublin take on Roscommon in the Allianz League.

As has been well documented it’s a first ever regular season ladies football league game in headquarters. While welcoming of the move and it’s significance, Dublin Captain Sinead Aherne isn’t getting wrapped up in the occasion with her attention primarily on the points available.

While focused on getting the win, the forward admits it’s a positive move for ladies football exposing the sport to those who don’t regularly attend. "It’s encouraging to see the level of co-operation between the ladies and the men’s association to take advantage of an opportunity that was there to put a ladies game in before a men’s game in Croke Park, which obviously gives us good exposure to fans and journalists".

Exposure to ladies football is an important issue to Aherne who says whenever possible double-headers should happen as they have in Galway and Armagh so far this season in order to "give the game exposure that is needed to grow it and improve standards".

Aherne won the All-Ireland with Dublin in 2010. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Having debuted in 2003, the St. Sylvesters' player has seen media coverage grow but is eager for attendances to grow with it. "TG4 has been massive in getting more exposure for our game but I’d still be disappointed with the level of attendances. People don’t get out on the ground and support in terms of bodies there".

Like all players they feed off the crowd and Aherne says that ladies football is no different. “Atmosphere improves games when there’s a bit of bite to it coming from the stands, so that’s one aspect where it needs to improve". Aherne insists if people know more about the game they’ll be more likely to get out to it which is why double-headers like this weekends are important.  

On an aside, Aherne is right when she says some media members need more exposure to the game – I put it to her during our interview that "getting the two points was important this weekend". She was too polite to correct me and tell me it’s three points for a win in the Lidl Ladies Football League.

I’ve covered All Ireland finals and watched Championship games, but haven’t been exposed to league games as generally they clash with rugby matches or Allianz League games. When Sinead says journalists need to be exposed to these games through these double-headers I couldn’t agree anymore.

I probably would not have thought to do this interview if it wasn’t for the game being moved to Croke Park proving the experienced Dublin forward right in theory about the media needing to be exposed to the sport!

Five times an All-Star, once an All-Ireland winner and holder of ten Leinster medals, the veteran Dub was happy to talk about what the occasion means but unsurprisingly was as keen to talk about the match itself. It’s a big game for both, as Mayo fight relegation while the Dubs look for a semi-final spot under manager Mick Bohan who’s in charge for a second term. The former skills coach with Clare and Dublin gave Aherne her debut in 2003.  

Following a third All-Ireland final defeat in a row to Cork last year, there’s been some experimentation by Bohan so far this season. His captain says; "we had a reasonably good start to the league we’ve had a few injuries and we’ve had a lot of new players coming in, we’ve had rotation so it takes a bit of time."

The Dubs overcame Mayo in a dramatic All Ireland semi final last year with Aherne's last ditch point from a free the difference. As tempting as it might be to reminisce on such a sweet win she says that game will have very little relevance to this match. According to Aherne "obviously things have changed it’s a new season, new management and new players. We’re getting ourselves up to speed on how we want to play the game and execute our game plan we won’t be looking back too much on last year."

Dublin versus Mayo in the Lidl Ladies Football League throws in at 5pm and is followed by the Allianz League meeting of Dublin and Roscommon at 7pm.

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