We spoke to two Dublin stars ahead of the All Ireland Senior Ladies Final on September 5th.
Listen to the full interview with Niamh Hetherton and Siobhan McGrath below or read some snippets from the conversation.
Can you tell me about the development of the women’s game from a skill perspective?
Siobhan: I've been playing at this level for two decades now, and I've seen the game develop and grow, the skill level has massively improved. Increased participation in the sport has massively helped this, GAA is the fastest growing female sport and has been for the last number of years.
Niamh: I think as a team, training is an integral part of developing our skills. There's not one training session where we don’t practice our solos and our hand passing at the start. Our management is so concentrated on keeping our skills at a top level.
Wellness is such an important and necessary topic, what sort of measures are in place now to help manage the mental health of players?
Siobhan: Our structures are incredibly good and extremely focused on player welfare, not just about how people are doing in the football side of things, but how they are doing personally.
The growth and success of the women’s game mean that the level of media attention and commitments has increased. Is there help available for players to deal with that side of the sport?
Siobhan: The GPA has started a lot of new courses and now that they’re in place it’s very beneficial for us. For us media attention is very controlled, management is always making sure that our players aren't exposed to any negativity.
Now that most restrictions have been lifted, players can essentially revert to their usual training routines pre-Covid. What has that change back to normality has been like?
Niamh: We all tried our hardest to keep our fitness levels and skill levels up during COVID, but it's not the same when you're going out training on your own, so now it’s great to be back in a camp of 30 girls and everyone striving for the same end goal.
Siobhan: We love winning, but we also love playing with each other and being part of a team and being able to push each other on. Even with the restrictions being lifted even further this year, we, as regards our precautions still must make sure we're not exposing ourselves or letting it into the team and masks are worn all the time.
Playing at the highest level of the sport requires huge dedication. What advice would you give to young girls aspiring to reach that level in the coming years?
Niamh: When I was a minor, Bobby McNulty and Greg McGonigle (previous Dublin Ladies management) were part of our management team, and they introduced that dedication and sacrifice into our minor setup.
If I had any advice for those aspiring to play football at the highest level it would be to have fun! The friendships you make through football are second to none.