The following article appeared in the Dublin Gazette this week.
WHILE Jennifer Dunne was many people’s pick for the player of the match in the All-Ireland final, the 20-year-old admits it was still “a bit of a shock” to get the nod for the 2020 Team of the Year.
Alongside Martha Byrne, it meant a breakthrough for Cuala, landing a ladies football honour like this for the first time at last weekend’s online ceremony.
They were among six Dubliners to get the nod with Sinead Goldrick (Foxrock Cabinteely), Carla Rowe (Clann Mhuire), Lyndsey Davey (Skerries Harps) and Noelle Healy (St Brigid’s) all honoured for their four-in-a-row success.
For Dunne, she did admit a few of her friends had been joking she would be included in such rarefied company but does say it was a massive year for her personally.
In 2018, she got the final quarter of the All-Ireland off the bench; 2019 saw her start at number 15 but was withdrawn at half-time for Healy.
This season, however, she started and finished the championship campaign in midfield, emerging as the dominant force with her height and athleticism wreaking havoc against Cork in the second half.
“This was definitely my best year,” she told the Dublin Gazette. “I did a lot of individual training when everything was on hold and kept ticking over. Coming back, I was eager to play and chomping at the bit.
“I was there or thereabouts for the past few years but this year, I really went for it. When I was named to start against Donegal in the first game, you want to hold onto the position. Every week following that was a challenge, even at training within the group, but I felt more involved and that I had a central role to play.”
The switch into midfield is something she had hoped for having played there at club level and with Dublin’s Under-16 and minors. With the seniors, breaking into the squad as a teenager, she was content to line out wherever manager Mick Bohan chose but she has been thrilled by the graduation to her preferred position.
“I was tried me a few times at full-forward because of my height – a bear in the square-esque role – which I don’t mind.
“But, I feel with my physique, I am built for running and getting up and down the field. As a forward, you have to be so patient and make important runs, running for days without getting your hands on the ball.
“In the past, you are happy as long as you are playing. That was the case in 2019, even getting that starting position, you are just happy to play and will go anywhere.