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Ulsterman Gregory McGonigle sure Dublin can make it third time lucky

By Declan Bogue

Published 23/09/2016

Head to head: Cork’s Ciara O’Sullivan (left) and Noelle Healy of Dublin
Head to head: Cork’s Ciara O’Sullivan (left) and Noelle Healy of Dublin

Dublin ladies aim to make it third time lucky as they complete a trio of clashes with Cork in Sunday’s All-Ireland final, under the guidance of manager Gregory McGonigle.

The Dungiven man, a brother of former Derry dual player Geoffrey, has the unenviable record of being the beaten manager in the ladies final for four of the last five seasons.

Two of those came while in charge of Monaghan (2011, 2013) while for the last two years he has been over the Metropolitan ladies, up against the irresistible force of Cork.

Going for their sixth consecutive All-Ireland title, and 11th in the last 12 seasons, the Rebellettes are undisputed queenpins.

So much of their aura was bound up in their special relationship with manager Eamonn Ryan, but since Ryan left and Ephie Fitzgerald took over, there has been no tail-off.

“Yeah, there hasn’t been a Man United feel about it!” laughs McGonigle.

As to whether Cork have an insurmountable aura, he bristles.

“I don’t know if it is an aura. We will know more at 6 o’clock on Sunday,” he says.

“In fairness in previous years the girls, because they had not been in the final since 2010, and lost quarter-finals in ‘11, ‘12 and ‘13, I think getting to the final in ‘14 they thought they had got over the stumbling block of actually getting there.

“(In) ‘15, I think there would have been more nerves and apprehension. We had nine players who hadn’t played in the previous year.”

He adds: “But there’s more of an excitement than a nervousness now. We said on January 4 that if we were to get to Croke Park, there was a good chance Cork would be there because of the draw.”

McGonigle cut his teeth in managing ladies sides when work took him to Belfast, where he managed bars for the Botanic Inn Group. After managing Queen’s ladies, he made the brave cross city move to Jordanstown and from there took over the Monaghan job.

After taking up employment with former Monaghan men’s manager Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney, a chance conversation at the 2013 All-Stars event landed him in the running for the Dublin job.

Since then, he estimates he has made 470 trips from his home in Lisburn to the various engagements with Dublin.

The ladies’ game is growing, and in good health, he insists.

“These girls do put in a serious effort,” he emphasises.

“People talk about commitment, but I always say it is about enjoyment.

“What a time to be a ladies county footballer. It’s a great time to be coaching them as well. I now see where young girls are becoming role models. They look up to Sinead McGoldrick rather than Jack McCaffrey.

“The key thing is that image, of being a role model, such as Katie Taylor and others.”

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