Meath v Down

Venue: Inniskeen Grattans, Monaghan

Date: Sunday April 22nd 2018

Referee: Jonathon Murphy Carlow

Half Time: Meath 3-12 Down 0-1.

Full Time: Meath 6-17 Down 0-03

Poetry and verse, the Stoney Grey Soil depicted so well by Patrick Kavanagh, Meath and Down Ladies met in the great mans town of Inniskeen Grattans fine grounds. No need for verse or sonnet when the Royal ladies wove intricate and purposeful patterns through their Down opponents. The poetry was being composed for the attendant crowd. The composers wore Green and Kavanagh, erstwhile goalkeeper of Inniskeen, would surely have been impressed.

Let’s download a few statistics first. Down made six changes from the Leagues opening match v Meath. The Royal made four changes. Time for talking was over, we were in knockout territory. Winner moves on, loser to quote Kavanagh

“There’s a wind blowing,
Cold through the corridors
A ghost-wind,
The flapping of defeated wings,
A hell fantasy
From meadows damned
To eternal April”

Boiled down, in sporting terms Kavanagh was saying, lose today and your league season ends in April. Simple. I’ll actually leave that interpretation to the poetry teacher.

I digress. Meath’s inside line all were on the score board within five minutes of the throw in. Meath had eight scorers across sixty minutes. The crossbar stood in the way of a Kate Byrne rocket. Monica McGuirk ruled the air but had only one point blank save to make. She did. One yellow card for Meath, the recipient Katie Newe probably took it to get a well earned break! More about Katie later. Down got three points, all from the boot of Jessica Foy, a talented player who also swept for Down. Six goals plundered, none conceded, no injuries and a clean bill of health going forward.

The Royal ladies grabbed Down poetically speaking, from the first to last minute. They never let up, nor did Down throw in the towel. The score suggests one thing; the Royalettes will testify that each score was wrested from Inniskeen’s grey soil. Meath’s plan is clear. Fast and pacy runners, swift moves between the runner and receiver. Always one overlapping off a shoulder. Meath had the wind. They targeted a ten point cushion, that wasn’t ambitious, that was necessary because the Inniskeen wind is related to the Dunganny wind. Down would have the elements in the second half. Like a colony of ants, those Green and Gold trimmed ladies tore the inside line asunder. And when plan A met a road block, plan B came into action, the ball was lifted towards Vikki Wall in finding another route to goal.

Semi finals, the girls won’t need reminding, are for winning. Be that ugly or pleasant. In the cold biting wind of the Monaghan drumlins, the Royal opted for style. But style needs a basic requirement that comprises hard work and unselfishness. The girls have it in spades. Down hit hard. Meath took the hits, all within the rules. Whilst the traffic was going forward with an urgency, the Meath back six plus keeper time and time again worked together like a well oiled machine. Can’t win it in the air? Tap it down to a running colleague. Closed off? Turn back to goal and recycle.

Niamh O’Sullivan and Fiona O’Neill, speed merchants with a scoring eye were unmarkable. This Meath team seems to work in pairs, coalitions that quickly transform into danger. Stacey Grimes and Megan Thynne brought their partnership to the usual level. Vikki Wall and Aoibhin Cleary chased, harried, fetched and hewed with the best of them. Every team needs a midfield that does its primary job first. Kate Byrne and Máire O’Shaughnessy anchored the middle, won the aerial battles and supported the front runners and met the oncoming defenders.

Turn over after turn over came. Block down after block down showed the Mourne ladies that unfortunate they met the wrong team on the wrong day. A half back line, a spring board of Emma Troy, Shauna Ennis and the tireless Niamh Gallogly, are a mentors dream. The team work and understanding between the full backs and keeper was brilliant. Newe and Sarah Powderly owned the corners and Michelle Peel and McGuirk owned the middle. Half time and the target hoped for by the manager was surpassed. The wind was now the main obstacle to the Royals.

Kate Byrne climbs highest Meghan Doherty no 8 D no 12 Aoife Keown D

From the off the Meath girls tore into Down. They were made fight for every ball but that first ten minutes of the second half would decide the match. Aoibhin Cleary, electric, got a brace of goals, one a raking bullet. Substitutes Emma White and Marion Farrelly scored another brace between them, both peaches. During all of this attack, attack, attack, Katie Newe shipped a yellow card. She needed the breather. It’s not fair to single out individual’s but it’s not fair either if we ignore something that is great. Having seen Meath’s Mark O’Reilly and Mayo’s Kenneth Mortimer in their primes, I recall that the first time I saw each; I knew immediately that a special talent was arriving. Katie Newe is that talent today. And for fun, on resumption she kicked a beauty into the wind for her point.

Today the management team earned their corn. Calm and professional, their demeanor flowed onto the pitch. And the ladies response flowed back to the management team and into the support in the stand. This team is a true team in the meaning of the word “team”. United with purpose but also aware that in the bench sits a girl that can and will do an equal job. Nothing makes a player play better than the breath of a colleague looking for the same spot. It either makes or breaks you and no team will ever succeed without completion. Meath are in a good place.

Next time out it’s winner takes all. Inniskeen returns to Patrick Kavanagh and his brilliant defining poetry. The Royal will add another verse to their journey. Well done to Down. Beaten yes, unbowed, no.

Meath: Monica McGuirk, Katie Newe, Michelle Peel, Sarah Powderly, Emma Troy, Shauna Ennis, Niamh Gallogly, Máire O’Shaughnessy, Kate Byrne, Megan Thynne, Aoibhin Cleary, Vikki Wall, Niamh O’Sullivan Capt, Stacey Grimes, Fiona O Neill.
Subs: Emma White for Vikki Wall, Marion Farrelly for Fiona O’Neill, Órla Byrne for Niamh Gallogly, Karley Leavy for Kate Byrne, Laura Dempsey for Máire O Shaughnessy.

Scorers: Niamh O’Sullivan 2-3, Aoibhin Cleary 2-2, Stacey Grimes 0-6, Emma White 1-1,Marion Farrelly 1-0, Fiona O’Neill 0-3, Máire O Shaughnessy and Katie Newe 0-1.

Down: A Burns, C Cunningham, O Boyle, L Morgan,; C Laverty, R Torney, H Murray,; M Doherty & C Mulvena; L Duffy, J Foy, A Keown,; G McClean , K McKay, N Ferris:

Scores: J Foy 0-3.