Positive vibes for Doherty ahead of Croke Park date

By Kieran Lynch

DOWN captain Meghan Doherty believes that the team’s win over Carlow in the All-Ireland Junior Championship semi-final has shown that they have more than one way of winning games.

The Mourne Ladies have enjoyed playing on the front foot this season, but against Carlow it was a dogged defensive display – and a last-gasp goal – which got them over the line in a 1-9 to 0-8 win, which Doherty feels will stand them in good stead if the going gets tough against Limerick in Sunday’s decider.

“I think we learned a lot from that Carlow game,” she said.

“The game was low scoring; it was intense and there was a lot of anxiety amongst the girls. Our performance on that day is not how we normally play football. Yes, we got the result in the end, but it wasn’t the prettiest win that we have had by any stretch.

“The girls were very happy at the end, but it definitely did put a bit of fear into us. I think it opened our eyes up to what it feels like to panic and not the play that we want to play.

“You have to be prepared for anything, so it’s good that we had that experience and came through it, and I think if it comes to that sort of situation on Sunday, we know how to progress from that.”

That win has helped the camp to relax ahead of what will be for most of the squad – outside of Doherty, Orla Boyle, Clara Mulvenna, and Emily Martin – their first final with Down in Croke Park.

That quartet are the only remaining players from Down’s All-Ireland Intermediate title win in 2014, but ahead of the game, the players are doing all they can to avoid overthinking the game.

“Everyone is quite calm. A lot of hard work went in to get here, so everyone is just trying to enjoy the build-up,” said Doherty.

“The vibes are good, everybody is excited and yes, there will be nerves when we get to Croke Park and it is a big occasion, but we have to look at it as just another game of football.

“We just have to stick to what we have done all year, and not really change anything. Things like your sleep, what you’re eating, keep all of that stuff the same.

“I said to the girls that it does worry me if they’re having any fears or panics. It probably can be quite a lot to deal with if you’re overthinking it, which is easily done. But I have been talking with the girls, and they’re saying that it’s more a case of excitement than anything else.

“But it’s my job to check in with the girls – especially the younger ones – on how they’re feeling. And I suppose that we’re all a close group of friends outside of football too, so everyone is helping each other feel calm at the moment.”

Down meet Limerick in the final, who they saw off by five points five weeks ago, but Doherty was impressed by the Munster side’s physicality and she feels Down will need to match them in that department.

“They were very strong and probably one of the fastest-paced teams that we have come up against,” she said.

“They made us play their game, more than we played ours, so it will definitely be a battle. I think it will be one of the toughest games that we have played all year.

“Their physicality mixed with their pace was a bit of a shock to us, but we probably don’t use our physicality as much as we can. We are quite a smal side, but we have that in us to use when we want to.”

Whilst Down will want to impose themselves, they can’t overstep the mark. Doherty was sin-binned in both the Ulster final and the All-Ireland semi-final, and she admits that she can’t allow that to happen again this weekend.

“It puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the girls. It’s 10 minutes, and a lot can happen in that time,” she said.

“It comes down to being controlled and composing ourselves once we’re on the pitch. We don’t need to be doing anything ridiculous; it’s about using physicality, but within the rules.”

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