A final score line of 2-3 to 0-4 makes for dour reading in an All-Ireland final, but on an enormous day for ladies' football, Dublin bagged their three-in-a-row, and Galway come out with their heads held high.
The dreadful weather and the obvious nerves from both sets of players played its part in such a low-scoring game. Pretty is wasn not, and regardless of what happened at the other end of the field, Galway can take huge plaudits for keeping this three-in-a-row chasing team to just five scores.
This team of Galway footballers showed that with a bit more luck and composure, they will soon win an All-Ireland title.
With no score in the first 22 minutes, a stroke of luck helped Dublin to the first score of the game through their centre back Sinead Goldrick. After surging upfield, she took a pass from clubmate Hannah O’Neill, and after three Galway defenders collided, she shot past keeper Lisa Murphy with the help of a deflection from Sarah Lynch.
Most of the opening 15 minutes were played inside the Dublin 45’ with Galway controlling the ball, tempo and possession, but they struggled to break down Dublin’s dogged defence.
Tracey and Roisin Leonard found it difficult to find the target as Galway kicked three wides and hit the upright twice before Goldrick’s goal finally broke the deadlock after 19 minutes. After another five minutes Galway finally got off the mark. It came via a fine strike by full forward Sarah Conneally, thanks to great work on the ground from Olivia Divilly who pounced on a breaking ball before finding Conneally with the pass.
This was the final score of the first half with Dublin leading 1-0 to 0-1 at the break. Having watched two high-scoring games in the junior and intermediate finals with Louth defeating Fermanagh 3-13 to 2-6 in the junior and Tipperary defeating Meath 2-14 to 1-12, the record crowd for a final of 56,114 were left scratching their heads.
While the first half took a full 25 minutes to see the first point registered, it was just 15 seconds when Dublin opened the second half scoring through Lyndsey Davey.
Dublin continued to pile on the pressure in the opening minutes of the second half, but missed two scoring opportunities through free kicks from McEvoy and captain Sinead Aherne.
Crucially, however, Tim Rabbite’s side was dealt a huge blow when Mairead Seoighe was sent to the line for 10 minutes after a late hit on goalkeeper Ciara Trant. Within two minutes Dublin had opened up a six-point lead, thanks to the quick thinking of Aherne.
On a day where only two frees were converted, she sent a quick free to Davey who slipped inside the Galway defence and passed the ball across the goal for O’Neill to palm the ball to the back of an empty net.
Although six points down and a player down, Galway refused to give in. Tracey Leonard, who had led her team from the front all season, scored two frees before Roisin finally got herself on the scoresheet to leave just one score between the sides with five minutes remaining.
Dublin, however, showed why they have now won the Brendan Martin cup three years in a row when captain Aherne kept the champions on the front foot, hitting back with her own score before the 2016 footballer of the year Noelle Healy rounded off the scoring in the final minute.
Galway manager Tim Rabbitte his team failed to score despite their strong start.
"It was a really good start, but we just didn’t take our chances when they came. It finished five scores to four and in that light every score was going to be very important. There were no nerves today. It wasn’t that we didn’t perform. We were very calm, were well in the game for long periods. We just made too many turnovers at crucial periods and Dublin, and being the team that they are, punished us."
It has been an incredible year from the county’s ladies' teams which ended without a long-awaited All Ireland title. However, given that it was their first final since 2005, this experience will stand to these ladies and it should not be the last All Ireland final appearance for this group of players.
Tim Rabbitte and his back-room team have brought Galway to two national finals - a first All-Ireland senior final for 14 years in the ladies football, and the National Ladies Football League decider, which they lost to Cork 1-12 to 2-7. And with a third U16 title in a row and the minors also reaching the final, Galway Ladies Football has never been in such good shape.
Scorers: Dublin: S Goldrick 1-0, H O’Neill 1-0, L Davey 0-1, S Aherne 0-1, N Healy 0-1.
Galway: T Leonard 0-2 (2f ), S Conneally 0-1, R Leonard 0-1.
Dublin: C Trant; É Rutledge, N Collins, M Byrne; A Kane, O Carey, S Goldrick; L Magee, S McGrath; L Davey, N McEvoy, C Rowe; H O’Neill, J Dunne, S Aherne (c ). Subs: N Healy for Dunne (h-t ), C O’Connor for McEvoy (43 ), O Whyte for O’Neill (51 ), R Ruddy for Kane (55 ), N Heatherton for Rowe (60 ).
Galway : L Murphy; S Burke, S Lynch, O Murphy; N Ward, L Ward, S Molloy; B Hannon, Á McDonagh; O Divilly, M Glynn, M Seoighe; R Leonard, S Conneally, T Leonard (c ). Subs: F Cooney for Conneally (43 ), C Cooney for Murphy (46 ), L Coen for Seoighe (48 ), A Trill for R Leonard (57 ), M Coyne for Hannon (58 ).
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down ).