Reporter for AFL Ireland, Stephen O’Sullivan, recaps two incredible grand final’s that were played in Dublin to decide the men’s and women’s premiers of AFL Ireland in 2021.
Congratulations to Cork Vikings on becoming the AFL Ireland women’s premiers after a dominant display in this year’s grand final in Dublin.
A wet, showery morning in the capital made way for dry and sunny conditions at Trinity Sports Grounds in Santry. Perfect conditions for footy and this years showpiece affair.
Having come off the back of a near perfect home and away season, the Cork Vikings were looking to add a premiership trophy to their Festival of Football title that they had claimed in the summer.
Standing in their way, the impressive Ulster Kookaburras. The Ulster team themselves had boasted a rather impressive season, having been the only team to have defeated the Vikings back in round one in Belfast.
The game got off to a flying start with the determined Vikings starting strongly. Marie Keating, who was at her energetic best throughout the contest, impacted the scoreboard early on. The Cork women were relentless in the first half, high-tempo footy coupled with tenacity in defence gave them a strong foothold in the game. Blathnaid Wiseman was superb throughout and put in a serious shift in the halfback line.
The Kookaburras for their part, battled valiantly. Once more, player of the year, Siobhan Sherrin led by example with a battling performance for the Ulster women. However, the league’s top goal kicker would once more leave her mark. Shannon Stevenson helped herself to a major which was then added to by an Annie Walsh brace and a captains goal from Maria Quirke. At the break, the Vikings had a 26-point lead.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first. The Kooks, try as they did, were simply no match for the ruthless Vikings. Tara Galvin, in the Vikings midfield, worked hard for her team and had an outstanding all-round impact on the day.
Second half goals from Annie Walsh, Shannon Stevenson and another from captain Maria Quirke put some gloss on the scoreline for the Vikings. Marie Keating capped off a fantastic individual display that was mirrored by her team, with another major. The Kooks rallied and had a better second term, kicking three behinds, but unfortunately it wasn’t their day in the end.
Blathnaid Wiseman, Tara Galvin and Marie Keating were best on ground for the newly crowned premiers. A thoroughly deserved title for the Cork Vikings who grew from strength to strength to claim their first AFL Ireland women’s premiership.
Final Score: Cork Vikings 9.8. (62) def. Ulster Kookaburras 0.5. (5)
For the sixth time in the club’s history, the South Dublin Swans are the 2021 AFL Ireland premiers. At a dry and warm Trinity College Sports Grounds in Santry, the Swans led an incredible, high-scoring victory over a gallant Leeside Lions.
It was a game the Swans nearly lost in normal time when down by 12-points deep into the final quarter, however, in the final two-minutes they managed to get the two goals required to force extra-time. In those extra 20-minutes they ran away from a shell-shocked Lions who must have thought they had the job done to win the John Locke O’Sullivan Cup.
The game was expected to be a tight contest after only eight-points separated the sides in their most recent meeting in Dublin in September. The pre-match expectation was that the Swans’ tall forwards, who shone in the preliminary final victory the previous week, would again dominate the goal-scoring.
However, it was small forward and captain, Seamus Owens, that got the two first quarter goals. Despite Seamus’s efforts it did not prevent the Lions racing into a 3.0. (18) to 2.3. (15) quarter-time advantage thanks to some accurate kicking by Paudie O’Connell and the Lions front line.
The second quarter again saw the Swans smalls come to the fore with Owens getting another two goals and staking an early claim for best on ground. For the Lions, key defender and current Irish international, Paul Murphy, had been particularly effective sweeping up any Swans forward entries. Despite the Swans’ best efforts in defence, the Lions scored four goals to lead at halftime by two-points.
The Lions brought on their experienced stalwart, Ian O’Sullivan, after halftime. He was instrumental in regaining control of the footy in the midfield while Paul Murphy continued his fine form in the sweeper role down back. Leeside kicked four goals to the Swans two with more good work being done by Lions midfielders Kevin Jones and James Daly. Lions would lead 8.7. (55) to 11.4. (70) to head into the final term, incidentally this was their biggest lead of the contest.
It could not have been a worse start to the final quarter for the Swans with the Lions getting the first goal to push nearly four goals clear. However, the tall forwards got going for the Swans with Aussie Drew Baldwin getting his first, followed by former Wexford county midfielder, Rory Quinlivan, kicking a major of his own.
Seamus Owens then got his fifth goal of the game, but despite the heroic efforts of the Swans to get back into it the Lions also got two more goals to maintain their three-quarter time advantage. With just two minutes remaining, it was desperate times for the Swans. Cork native Gene Casey worked hard to kick one late and deal the Swans some hope.
With less than 30 seconds on the clock, and despite desperate Lions defending, somehow Keith Whelan popped up to snap a goal from 30 metres out to draw the Swans level and force extra time! The final score in normal time; Swans 13.11. (89) to Lions 14.5. (89).
In extra time, the switch of former UCD soccer goalkeeper Conor McGroarty from defence into attack yielded results instantly with the tiring Lions backmen unable to contain him. McGroarty found the big sticks twice in the first 10-minute half of extra time, and Gavin Murray had a third to outscore Lions by 14-points. The two sides were nearing exhaustion at this point but they fought on with another McGroarty goal putting too much daylight between the sides, as the Swans ran out winners at the end of extra time 115 to 96.
The Swans will cherish this win as possibility the greatest in the club’s history. Every Swan on the day had nothing left in the tank in a tremendous team effort over 100-minutes of footy.
Special mentions go to captain Seamus Owens, who led by example all day and was the Swans top goal kicker with five, Connor Dunne, Rasmus Brunn, Gene Casey, Sammy Brady, Conor McGroarty and Darragh Devlin.
For the Lions, best on field were Paul Murphy, Gerry Cronin, Kevin Jones, James O’Shea and James Daly. Ian O’Sullivan also played a massive role for the Lions after his introduction. They can be massively proud of their efforts for the 2021 season and the part they played in arguably the best AFL Ireland Grand final to date.