180 minutes of All-Ireland finals: Niamh Collins is relishing her third of the year

September 19, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

THE LAST TIME Foxrock-Cabinteely were in an All-Ireland final, Niamh Collins was the water girl.

This time around, she’s one of the stars of the show, operating in the half-back line and making her third All-Ireland appearance of the year.

Although it may be the south Dublin side’s first senior All-Ireland final appearance in their history, Niamh Collins is no stranger to the big stage.

She’s already played 120 minutes of All-Ireland finals this year, winning the O’Connor Cup with UCD in February, and falling just a point short with Dublin in Croke Park in September.

“It’s great to be here again. All-Ireland finals, they don’t come around often for any team. Playing three in a year – college, club and county – is obviously fantastic. It’s tiring. But it is great,” the 24-year-old tells The42.

When commended on the achievement of featuring for sixty minutes in each of the two finals so far, and gearing up to do the same today, Collins’ modesty shines through.

“180 minutes of All-Ireland finals,” she laughs.

“With Dublin, it was our third year to be in the All-Ireland final and our third loss, but this one definitely for me anyway, hurt more, because I was on the pitch. Naturally, being there and having played, it is hard.

“I won’t speak for Sinead [Goldrick], or Niamh Ryan – Niamh Ryan who also did the three this year – it was a very hard turnaround straight from the All-Ireland final to the first round of Leinster with club.

“I think we had five days in between them, I think the All-Ireland final was on the Sunday and the first round of Leinster was the following Saturday. So it was pretty hectic and it was, emotionally, very hard. The club girls are brilliant, they made sure we were okay before going out onto the pitch.”

Collins, who studied Electronic Engineering in college and now works for Hailo, has been involved with the Dublin inter-county set-up for the past three years. Sinead Goldrick is another well-known Foxrock-Cabinteely name on the Dublin team, while club-mate Niamh Ryan was also involved with the panel this year.

Ryan is targeting her third All-Ireland title this year, having won the U21 honour with her county and she also featured as a substitute in the same UCD O’Connor Cup winning squad as Collins.

As Collins looks back on her final year in the UCD jersey, it’s clear that she’s hoping to recreate similar memories today with Foxrock-Cabinteely.

“Winning college was probably the best thing that happened to me, GAA-wise in those five years, so to win championship with club would just be unbelievable.

“This was the first year that we’d ever qualified [for the O’Connor Cup weekend]. We went to win, but I’m going to be honest, we were just delighted to have even gotten there at that point because we hadn’t before. In final year, we finally got to go. We never had any doubt in ourselves but when we won, it was just the cherry on top of the cake.

I know what it feels like on a pitch when the final whistle goes to be a champion, and I also know what it feels like standing on the pitch when you’ve lost., and I by no means want to be in the latter.

Foxrock-Cabinteely are a club that have made quite a journey over the past few years.

“It’s the first All-Ireland final the club has reached at senior level. The club’s only about ten years old, so to be there now is just unbelievable.

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“I was with Foxrock since I was whatever, eight years old, since I started playing football, and then Foxrock and Cabinteely came together in 2005, when I was about twelve. I remember for the first All-Ireland final that Fox-Cab got into, that was the junor, I think I was the watergirl. I was about 15 or 16-years-old.

“For me, this is my first All-Ireland final with the club, it’s the club’s first senior All-Ireland, but my first All-Ireland final ever with Fox-Cab.”

The Dublin and Leinster champions reached the final against the odds, following a tough battle in Bray with Mayo’s Carnacon. The game could have went either way for the most part, but then FoxCab found themselves in trouble. They went down to 14 players but their response was incredible, scoring two goals in as many minutes.

“We got the sin-bin in the backs, and Sinead Goldrick and myself just turned to the team and said ‘there’s no way we’re going to win this unless we lift it by 10%.’ I don’t know, sometimes I find it can happen to teams that a sin-bin actually lifts them because they snap into action and they know that it’s now or never.

“Carnacon were a team I’d heard about my whole underage playing life. Having never played against them, we obviously didn’t know what to expect. We had played a few of the Mayo girls at county level, but never Carnacon as a unit. They were absolutely brilliant, but we were delighted to get away with the win.”

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With a strong management team behind them, Collins is hopeful that they can mirror their O’Connor Cup success, as they face four-time All-Ireland champions and ladies club football superpowers Donaghmoyne.

“Pat [Ring], Peter [Clarke], Angie [McNally] and Colm [Kearney] have been involved in college with me, county at one point, and club for so many years. Pat has literally trained me since I was about 14.

“I suppose they have a certain way of playing, and it’s something that having played with them for so many teams now, I’ve adapted to. They’re fantastic, they know how to motivate us anyway.”

It’s not the first time the sides have met however, as Donaghmoyne saw of Collins’ side in last year’s semi-final.

“I think we let that match pass over us. We didn’t show our greatest side that day, I think we had a couple of goal opportunities we let slip, and maybe we weren’t as defensively intent as we can usually be.”

With a year more experience in the top-tier under their belts, and the slight advantage of a Dublin venue (Parnell Park, throw-in 2.45pm), Foxrock-Cabinteely can definitely feel more confident this time around. Collins knows exaclty what to expect though, and one thing’s for sure – she knows it’s going to be a battle.

“I love Parnell Park, every time we’ve played there with club I’ve almost anyway, been successful. It’s a lovely pitch, it’s level, it’s sheltered enough.

“You’re not going to be trudding through muck, so it’s going to be a good fast game.

“Donaghmoyne – they’re fast, they’re fit, they’re brilliant, but hopefully we’ll bring our better side this year and it will be a bit of a better match.”

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