This article is part of a series of feature interviews prepared for the Dublin Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association ahead of their All Ireland 2016 final with Cork.
While Dean Rock revels in his role in attempting to take the men’s senior title to the capital for the second year on the trot, with his county season spilling over to occupy weekend’s either side of the ladies’ final, Niamh McEvoy – his partner in both life and lethal forward play – will be having a quiet one as she prepares to take on Cork in the ladies’ finale.
“I’ll be watching the men, but I also have to focus on myself,” McEvoy told us ahead of the first rendition of the men’s final against Mayo. “Dean’s great about it. He’ll enjoy his moment, but I know he’ll be there for me during the week. We had exactly the same thing last year.”
Talking to McEvoy, in fact, you get the sense that the whole process – from training to coaching and the time time constraints around the game – comes extremely naturally to her. There’s almost an edge of guilt to the way the full-forward describes her approach to training, and how it might differ to some other members of the squad.
“I’m a primary school teacher, which could hardly be more perfect for football,” she says. “I turn up to training in the evenings having been home, eaten, and sometimes had a nap as well. The summer fits well with the football season, too. It can be difficult for the younger girls to manage, as lot of them are students and might have an evening or weekend job to worry about as well. I get kids and parents asking me about the games instead, and work starts just a couple of weeks before the final. Both, to be honest, are a nice distraction. I’m really lucky.”
Footballing life hasn’t always been simple for McEvoy, though, who is quick to note the progress the ladies’ game has made in recent years, giving her club environment as an example.
As a star at Malahide club Sylvester’s, McEvoy recalls her early footballing days as “playing with the boys until I was 12, as there just weren’t enough girls interested. You can see by the attendance at Croke Park last year how much bigger the game has become [at a touch over 30,000, last year’s final attendance made it the bigger women’s sporting event in Europe, ahead of the women’s FA Cup Final in England].”
“I sometimes work with the nursery at Sylvester’s now, and there will be sixty there on a Saturday morning. Sylvester’s are a medium-sized club, but it’s just not necessary to mix everyone together anymore. In fact, you have to separate them out because of the numbers involved.”