‘It was a tough pill to swallow. But I’ve digested it now, just about’ – Dublin star Dunne

DUBLIN STAR JENNIFER Dunne says her side are fuelled by “a new drive” this year, after their bid for a perfect five-in-a-row came crashing down in 2021.

Senior newcomers Meath stunned the reigning champions in September’s All-Ireland final, getting their hands on the Brendan Martin Cup for the very first time.

But with Mick Bohan back on board for the 2022 season and no sign of big-name retirements two weeks out from the Lidl Ladies National Football League, Dunne reports that there’s no shortage of hunger in the camp, with continuity key as they look to bounce back.

“There’s a different kind of drive this year,” the midfielder said as Yoplait was  announced as the new sponsor of the LGFA’s Third-Level Championships.

“Obviously, there’s hunger — in the past, we’ve been the ones on top and this year, that’s not the case. There was a lot of shock and upset and everyone had to digest what happened last year but definitely going into this year, there’s a new drive, something new to look forward to and to go after, which is exciting as well.

“Having Mick still around and that core group definitely [helps]. People have been through that and lost together, so hopefully we can drive on.

“For me, obviously, it’s my first loss, so it’s probably a good thing as well. It’s not all always happy and everything like that. Experiencing a loss like that definitely drives you to push on and want to do better. That’s definitely the atmosphere within the group this year.”

21-year-old Dunne had known nothing but winning in the Sky Blue jersey, playing a central role as Bohan’s charges previously won 25 straight championship games since he took over after the 2016 All-Ireland final.

That ’16 decider was the last of their three-in-a-row final defeats to Cork, while they then went on to win four on the bounce.

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“I was lucky enough to come into the group when they were winning and I was there for three of the All-Ireland wins,” she says.

“That feeling of loss, some of the older girls that have been around know how to deal with it, but it never gets easier as you’d imagine. It’s never nice and it took a lot of time to even sink in. I didn’t really want to talk about it to anyone to be honest, and it was a tough pill to swallow. But I’ve kind of digested it now, just about.

“It’s mad, it’s a few months later, but even still, it will stick with me forever. I definitely leaned on my team-mates and the girls, they helped. The crew are all still sticking around and we’ll push on this year and hopefully we can go after it again.”

Dunne in action against Meath.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Cuala ace hailed Meath’s “incredible run” and admits that Dublin “couldn’t perform on the day,” while noting that the coverage of the Royals’ feat in the aftermath may have made it harder to take.

That said, she believes “everyone has their time to shine” and is relishing a “clean slate”.

Pressed at one point on the Dublin men’s team’s ‘decline,’ Dunne offered diplomatic answers, laughing that “everyone has it out for the Dubs,” while certainly not ruling out another capital double in 2022.

The DCU Primary School Teaching final year student also wouldn’t rule out a move to the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] in the future, where two of her team-mates Sinéad Goldrick and Lauren Magee are part of a 14-strong Irish contingent.

“It’s definitely a challenge that I would be interested in,” she said. “At the moment obviously I’m finishing college and I probably will work for a few years, but I don’t think it’s something that I would completely rule out of the picture.

“I’m focusing on college and obviously college football and Dublin for the year, and then we’ll see what happens. But it’s definitely an exciting concept and something that I’d love to maybe challenge myself to do but at the moment it’s definitely not at the top of my priority list.”

The league, in which Dublin are out to defend their Division 1 crown, and championship certainly are, as Dunne forecasts a competitive season ahead.

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Dublin and Cork shared every Brendan Martin Cup title since 2005 before Meath’s 2022 upset, and the ever-rising star predicts an “open playing field” with the title “up for grabs”.

Yoplait have been announced as the new sponsors of the LGFA’s Third-Level Championships.

It’s certainly a case of all to play for, with the Leinster championship an exciting prospect for the first time in some years.

While it has been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic of late, Dublin had long dominated, and uncertainty even reigned ahead of the 2020 edition as they were the only senior team in the province.

With Meath and 2021 All-Ireland intermediate champions Westmeath back in situ, an historic Croke Park double-header was confirmed for the final last week.

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Dunne says it’s exciting, especially given “the fact that there was only ourselves and maybe one other [county] in the past or even one year, I think it was just ourselves. Meath and Westmeath are there as well, it’s going to be really competitive.”

“And obviously for the women’s game and the sport, it’s great that there’s a double-header going ahead in Croke Park for coverage and everything like that,” she added. “So we’ll take it and just look forward to it.

“It’s great for Leinster GAA as well, to kind of have that push and get more teams hopefully coming up from intermediate to compete as well at senior level.”

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