By Shaun Casey
A GOAL was set in early October that Down would drag themselves back up to intermediate level and last Sunday Peter Lynch’s ladies achieved that target.
Winning the All-Ireland was the end objective, but Lynch insists his team didn’t get too hung up on climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand. Instead, they focused on taking a game-by-game approach.
“Early October was our first meeting with the players, and they were still really disappointed with how last year ended in relegation,” explained Lynch, who was joint manager with Caoibhe Sloan.
“The key feeling was that everyone wanted to get back to intermediate. But you can’t be too fixated on it, you’re trying to get a process going and a system of play and a belief among the players.
“We knew you had to be involved in the last day of the season to get back up. We did say that it might not happen this year, but we’ll do our best to make it happen. We really had to go game-by-game all year, right from the start of the league.
“That set the mentality of dealing with one game and when it’s over, moving on to the next one. We didn’t want to be going into the championship with players looking three or four games ahead.
“By the time we were getting to Croke Park, I think that process helped keep us grounded. From the semi-final, you can’t protect players from everything that’s going on, but you do the best that you can.”
Their encounter with Limerick was nip and tuck but it was the super sub Orla Swail who made all the difference, rattling the net moments after coming on. Lynch credits the bond with clubmate Kate McKay for creating the goal opportunity.
“We knew from what we saw of Limerick that they were very good defensively, they were fast. Probably if they had of been a bit better at shooting, we could have been in serious difficulty.
“Our forwards weren’t getting much space and time to get shooting opportunities, so we made the most of what came our way. Oral’s goal, I think the quick thinking and experience of Kate McKay made that.
“The two girls play at club level together. Kate knew when she won the free that Orla would be on the move looking from that ball, just like their days playing with Carryduff. That half a second gained was enough for Orla to get in on goal.”
Down’s season is certainly worth celebrating, and the players savoured the moment. “We came back down the road on Sunday evening to the Canal Court, the county board had a banquet for us. On Monday we headed on to Quinn’s in Newcastle, they sponsor the girls quite a bit and then it was a wee walk up the straight to Bryansford club.
“Bryansford have been good to us with the use of the pitch and our final training session before the final was in Bryansford so it was nice. And it was good for a few of the underage players to meet the team there as well.”