Footballer of the Year Sinead Aherne scores 3-3 on her return

Dublin 5-14 Monaghan 3-10

Sinead Aherne recorded an outstanding haul of 3-3 at the DCU Sportsgrounds to guide Dublin towards an emphatic victory over Monaghan in Division 1 of the Lidl National Football League.

In her first start of the year, the 2018 Footballer of the Year was in scintillating form, combining superbly with Noelle Healy and Siobhan Killeen on the Dubs’ inside line. Despite the admirable second-half resistance of their northern counterparts, Mick Bohan’s champions ultimately secured a semi-final spot with two rounds to spare.

The Farney county enjoyed an encouraging start to the action – Muireann Atkinson (free) and Leanne Maguire pointing in quick succession. They subsequently leaked a goal to Aherne in the third-minute, however, before Siobhan Woods also fired beyond the reach of Monaghan goalkeeper Noeleen McGuirk.

Unselfish play from Healy released Aherne for another palmed finish and Killeen subsequently pounced for their fourth goal on 14 minutes. Aherne then completed her hat-trick with a speculative effort on the right-flank, leaving Monaghan 15 points in arrears, 5-3 to 0-3.

To their credit, Niall Treanor’s Ulster outfit dug deep as the half progressed. Complimenting points by Atkinson, Maguire and captain Cora Courtney, Ciara McAnespie rattled the net to significantly boost their spirits.

Nevertheless, Killeen (two), Healy and Aherne intervened to ensure Dublin were 5-7 to 1-6 in front at half-time. Despite making five changes at the break, they continued to make hay in attack. Substitutes Orlagh Nolan and Carla Rowe added their names to the scoresheet, in advance of Healy’s second of the game.

Yet, this was the cue for Monaghan to develop an impressive purple patch of their own. After Atkinson grabbed a close-range goal, Maguire converted a penalty on 41 minutes. The Magheracloone ace also split the posts from play, cutting the gap to eight inside the closing-quarter.

Yet, following a successful Aherne free, Lyndsey Davey became the ninth Dublin player to find the range. This effectively quelled any suggestion of a dramatic fightback by Monaghan, who are still searching for their first win of 2019.

Although Courtney and McAnespie kept the scoreboard ticking over, Rowe and Healy rounded off a fourth consecutive triumph for the Sky Blues.

Scorers – Dublin: S Aherne 3-3 (3f), S Killeen 1-2, S Woods 1-0, N Healy 0-3, C Rowe 0-2, J Dunne, N Hetherton, O Nolan, L Davey 0-1 each.

Monaghan: L Maguire 1-5 (1-0 pen, 3f), M Atkinson 1-2 (0-2f), C McAnespie 1-1, C Courtney 0-2.

Dublin: R Fleming; R Ruddy, O Carey, C Ruddy; S Finnegan, K Fitzgibbon, L Magee; J Dunne, N Hetherton; H O’Neill, S Woods, K Sullivan; S Aherne, S Killeen, N Healy.

Subs: C Trant for Fleming, S Fagan for C Ruddy, O Nolan for O’Neill, L Davey for Woods, C Rowe for Sullivan (all h-t), E Kehoe for R Ruddy (44), C McGuigan for Killeen, N Owens for Magee (53), O Whyte for Aherne (56).

Monaghan: N McGuirk; N Kerr, S Boyd, H McSkane; A McAnespie, R Courtney, A McCarey; S Coyle, E McAnespie; C McBride, L Maguire, E Woods; C Courtney (capt.), M Atkinson, C McAnespie.

Subs: C Treanor for McBride (43), B McAleer for McSkane (53).

Referee: S McNulty (Wicklow).