“But you’ve every right to be upset?”
“That’s just the way it is. You wouldn’t really dwell on it too much thinking ‘what’s the point if there aren’t 80,000 fans?’ We got through our whole league campaign, county and college with just parents and family watching us.”
Dublin’s All-Ireland Under-21 winning corner-forward Siobhán Woods won’t budge. Ladies football faces an abundance of problems – low average attendances, finals being re-scheduled, poor quality pitches, not even the opportunity of a curtain-raiser for men’s games – none of it matters. That’s how Woods views it anyway.
Head up, eyes fixed in the face of uncertainty and play the game. That’s her model.
“It doesn’t play too much on our minds from my own experience anyway,” she says of the low attendances at women’s National League games.
“If you can get greater consistency in attendances across fixtures and then build up to the All-Ireland final it would be better. But it doesn’t bother us too much. The main worry is when it comes to funding rather than attendances.”
Woods is fresh from her travels abroad and is ready to settle back into another year of Psychology and Gaelic football at DCU. She added another medal to her collection during the summer as Dublin retained the All-Ireland Under-21 title by beating Cork 0-14 to 1-08 in the final with last year’s captain Woods tagging two points onto the scoresheet.
“It definitely shows what’s coming through in Dublin with the Under-21s”, she said. “Training with the seniors is a really good learning curve for younger players who hadn’t been involved with the senior setup before so we’re definitely delighted to have retained that title but it is a building process towards the seniors as well.”
On matters closer to home, DCU’s 3-16 to 0-09 O’Connor Cup Final loss to the University of Limerick last March still lingers in her memory, but only as a motivating tool.
“All you can do is learn and build on it again. We put in a good performance in the semi-final to beat University College Cork and we felt confident going into the game the next day. We held on for the first twenty minutes but then kind of fell away from there.”
Woods knows the hurt of losing major finals having been on the pitch this time twelve months ago when Dublin lost to Cork in the 2014 All-Ireland Final, explaining that she understands the hurt her team-mates are going through this time around with Dublin again losing to Cork in this year’s final 0-12 to 0-10.
“It was strange. A few of us went away for the summer so we went in together to watch the game – I wasn’t involved with the seniors this year. But being in Croke Park definitely brought back the memories from last year. We knew how hard it would be for the girls so we were really hoping they’d win but unfortunately it wasn’t to be on the day.
“This year Cork were probably more experienced and although Dublin drove them right to the end you couldn’t really argue with the result at the end of the day.”
However, she insists that although they play the game to win titles and the silver taste of victory is indeed sweet, big final losses do have a lasting effect on players.
“Maybe not for Cork, but for the rest of us it’s always more losses than wins. You tend to remember them a lot more than the wins,” she continues.
“When you do win you really appreciate it at the time but the memory of the wins fade away quicker than the memory of the loss. You’re chasing that big buzz of the win but you kind of lose that more quickly than you would the sting of the loss.”
As for looking forward, Woods says that under the management of Steven Maxwell and Niamh McEvoy, DCU can push on for 2015/16 in search of that elusive O’Connor Cup.
“We’ve new management coming in this year so it’ll be interesting to see what that brings. So far we’ve trained a few times and it’s been really good.
“As much as we played attacking football last year there’s a change of personnel and a change of players but hopefully it’ll be a similar brand of football so we’re looking to drive on under the management and be positive.”
She asserts that sport, driven by emotion and the adrenaline of fear and conquest, has to be a practical game with tactics and more than anything a game plan. One must look to learn from mistakes and push on to the next challenge.
“As much as a win or a loss drives you, you don’t get hung up on it emotionally. You can’t be upset about it forever so you have to use it as a driving force but not in an emotional way.
“You have to learn from the facts of the game. Learn what you did right and what you did wrong and not make those same mistakes again.
“As traumatic as the experience of a loss is, you have to be able to put it behind you and move on because it’s only ever going to be a tool for moving forward if you use it correctly.”
Head up, eyes fixed in the face of uncertainty and play the game.
Aaron Gallagher (@AaronGallagher8)
Photo credit: Sportsfile