Sparkling or Plain.

Leinster Minor A LGFA Final

Meath v Dublin

Venue: Coralstown/Kinnegad GAA Grounds.

Referee: Jason Corcoran – Kildare

Half Time: Meath 1-2 Dublin 1-9
Full Time: Meath 2-5 Dublin 2-13.

Moving from poetry to music let me give you a verse from the Galway band The Stunning.

“Honey if the truth hurts don’t look it might
Go away
It’s easy to pretend that life is a rosy
I don’t need a platter,
I’ll take it straight from the shelf
Give it to me raw,
I’ll take it home and cook it myself”

Such is the respect those Royal under 18s engender that it would be an insult to both them and their worthy opponents not to call it as it was. Life is a box of chocolates according to Forest Gump and today Meath’s picked a chocolate that wasn’t their choice. In metaphoric terms the Royals were still water to Dublin’s sparkling fizz. Enough of the pussy footing and let’s look at the meat of the match.

When you play a well drilled outfit like Dublin you need all your troops present and correct. Before the throw in word reached us that the influential Orlagh Lally would not be manning the crucial midfield berth from the off. Forgotten for a spot in that area is the recovering Dunboyne player Sarah Wall. Few counties can afford such losses. Dublin have always had numerical supremacy. Since 2011 across their GAA codes come planning and organization with a mission statement that says “what cannot be measured cannot be done”.

Meath were as fit and as well prepared as Dublin from beginning to end. However, physically in certain areas, Dublin held the upper hand. That is never an impediment but combine it with clever football heads and your task is increased. On arrival at the Coralstown Kinnegad pitch, the flags indicated a strong wind blowing into the stand. Then it switched, backing Meath for the throw in only to switch again after ten minutes. Initial probing took place between sides, little sorties here, little shimmies there.

Katie Newe wearing number two turned over her opponent in front of goal and so began a move that was dispatched expertly to the net at the other end by the Royals Tara Berigan. By now, Meath were 1-1 to the good and their well coached moves, fast hands and foot passes were troubling Dublin. A response was due and the screw was turning. Imperceptible at first, then noticeable. Once more Katie Newe and her full back line were all hands to the pumps. Newe made two block downs and a full length save to prevent a goal. Ominously the captain Judy Bobbett was also coming into action.

Current day football, and that includes GAA played by male and female, moves at a rapid rate. Dublin’s plan of action was coming into focus. Initially it was the fine centre back Erin Healy that plugged their gaps but now their link play was giving Meath trouble. Modern football as created by Armagh and Tyrone means you defend from number 15 back when you have to. I counted ten Dublin defenders on occasions and then a quick switch, orchestrated by Niamh Hetherton pushed up on the Royal defence. Eventually a breach came and Dublin goaled. From then on to half time it’s fair to say they bossed proceedings, not unchallenged but scoring enough times to keep the score board from seizing.

Meath knew that they faced a climb on resumption but the one thing I have noticed about all the Royal teams is this. They don’t lie down. Neither did Dublin and they expected an early response. Now Orlagh Lally was anchoring the middle. A calming presence. Dublin fended off those early skirmishes. Now the Royalettes don’t need me to tell them that possibly a tad more patience may have brought a better return. But then we who stand on the sideline we have all the answers. The girls do the heavy lifting.

Having only recently renewed my acquaintance with the game I’m a bit out of touch with the rules. From my vantage I felt Meath had to work hard for their frees but maybe that was down to Dublin’s ability to group that bit quicker. Having soaked up the expected Meath onslaught, Dublin set about adding to the board. Once more Newe and Beibhinn Hickey, she had a solid second half, were to the fore. Rachel Troy got a yellow card, she was battling away trying to turn the tide and that entails risks. You will never be faulted for trying hard and Rachel did her bit. Dublin though got the cushion goal. And in fairness it was admirably executed.

Judy Bobbett, steadfast captain and square commander was beaten by O’Connor and there was nothing Judy could do. At that stage there comes a point when the bottom can part company with the mainframe and it’s to Meath’s credit that they refused to die. Grier and Berigan along with Seona Lynch burrowed down the wings and through the Dublin rear guard but when you are running into a Sky Blue blizzard defence of up to ten players, and in fairness Dublin didn’t set out to be defensive, they were well drilled, the likes of the Meath forwards ran into cul de sacs. Orlagh Lally sallied forward and into a thicket of blue but bullied her way through, showing great skills, soloing with both left and then switching to the right foot before being hauled down for a penalty. Lauryn Grier was cold and calm as she slotted it.

Meath pushed forward but they needed goals and Dublin shut the shop. The final whistle of a very sporting match blew and Dublin were deserving winners. Dublin captain Sarah Fagan, in a touch of real class, mentioned the great challenge and rivalry provided by this specific group of Royals, adding “we knew that we were safe only when the final whistle went”. As tributes go, they don’t come any better. Both sets of girls and their management teams exuded class and decency. If this report seems a tad disjointed, blame it on my nomadic tour of the fine ground. I moved to three vantage points before I finally settled on a spot I could do justice to the fare on offer.

Meath lost a Leinster final. So? Of course it’s a disappointment but hey, in terms of life journeys those girls are enhanced from what they give and the support they get. Standing at the back of the stand I had the good fortune to be amid Royal families, mothers, dads, brothers, sisters, neighbours and older players, managers of other Meath ladies teams all cheering this group. No money will buy that. Tonight, next week lessons will be learned, confidence rebuilt, hunger returned and an iron will installed, never again will we lose a final. Thank you for a great day girls from both outfits. Yiz are all a credit!

Meath: Judy Bobbett captain, Katie Newe, Mary Kate Lynch, Beibhinn Hickey, Rachel Troy, Órla Smith, Aedin Slattery, Susie O’Rourke, Laoise McDermott, Marina Kelly, Leah Devine, Seona Lynch, Lauryn Grier, Megan Peters, Tara Berigan.

Subs. Orlagh Lally for O. Smith, Petra Kelly for L. Devine, Abbie Timmons for Susie O’Rourke.
Scorers Meath: Tara Berigan 1-2, Lauryn Grier 1-1, Abbie Timmons and Leah Devine 0-1 each.

Dublin: Áine Ryan, Laura Dempsey, Eimear Laughlin, Faye O’Connell Bell, Hannah Leahy, Erin Healy, Lisa Davies, Sarah Fagan Capt, Laura Quinn, Niamh Hetherton, Rachel Brennan, Grainne O’Driscoll, Kate Sullivan, Caoimhe O’Connor, Laura McCarthy.

Subs; Eimear Griffin, Emma McCormack,
Scorers: L McCarthy 1-2, K Sullivan 0-4, C O’Connor 1-0, L Quinn 0-2, S Fagan, G O Driscoll, E Griffin, N Hetherton, E Healy 0-1 each.