Meath 4-13 Down 2-2
The new season and new goals! Dunganny was cold and windy. Hardy souls needed, especially on the pitch. Meath Ladies laid down a serious marker with a performance that warmed the hearts of their Royal followers. Fitter, physically stronger and faster than their Down opponents, Meath ladies went about this demolition job in a no frills manner.
Rocked by a first minute goal by their Ulster opponents, Meath rattled off the next six points. Stacey Grimes played with a directness that unnerved her opponents. Vikki Wall was the focal point at 14 and both the Royals midfielders Katie Byrne and Marie O'Shaughnessy were the platform for Meath. Inter play and inter spaced with timed running off the shoulder, forced Down into a rearguard battle.
Grimes combined with Niamh O'Sullivan and Megan Thynne to free Wall. Her barreling run saw her upended in the square for a penalty which the peerless Grimes dispatched. Burns, the Down keeper got a yellow card for her effort at trying to stop the machine that is Wall. The initial pattern continued unabated, points kept the scoreboard ticking, interspaced with a second brilliant lobbed goal from White. Half time and a respite for Down perhaps? They had a mountain to climb, trailing 2-10 to 1-1.
Now Meath has the wind for the second half but a combination of knowing perhaps the job was done and a fight back by Down, saw a more competitive match. Tenacious defending by the Meath rearguard showed that they weren't totally depending on their fabled forward six. Judy Bobbett made two point blank saves along with risking injury diving at a Down pair of feet. Powderly and Emma White were everywhere but managerial and coaching nous were on display by a fine sweeping role by Meath 13, the redoubtable Grimes. Her poise and calmness linked defense back into attack again.
Downs 15 with a famous surname, Sorcha McCartan, whipped a peach of a goal but as if personally stung, Meaths Wall almost tore the roof off the Down net with a reply that signaled normal service resumed. The goal was Downs was one of only two second half scores. They weren't a bad team; it's just that Meath were better at all things. That's the difference. Watching the Meath U 14s earlier, it is obvious that the county board and coaching teams are working as one. The template rests around swift movement and supporting the player in possession.
With a final score of 4-13 to 2-2, it is evident that the Meath front six worked as a unit. Equally holding Down to a low score, the defense played with an assured style and steel that augurs well as Meath advance onto firmer soil. Picking a match winning performer is impossible. All dovetailed with their coaching team. Wall stood tall, a cliché yes, but the service from White, the midfield duo of Byrne and O'Shaughnessy and surging runs by the captain O'Sullivan, laid down a never say die attitude, Stacey Grimes covered every inch of the pitch. She scored 1-5 and is a cold free taker. Megan Thynne worked her socks off, always linking particularly with a fast moving O'Sullivan.
Meath possess the basics for a strong showing in 2018. Pace, size, good decision making and a team obviously full of leaders and girls who want it!
Next up on February 3rd is Longford. It was heartening to see the return of Sarah Wall from serious injury to the panel also a number of ''old'' faces returning to the fold for another year.
Meath team and scorers: Judy Bobbett, Niamh Lister, Orlagh Lally, Sarah Powderly, Emma Troy, Michelle Peel, Emma White (1-0), Kate Byrne, Maire O'Shaughnessy, Megan Thynne, Niamh O'Sullivan (0-04), Aoibhin Cleary (0-1), Stacey Grimes (1-05), Vikki Wall (2-03), Orla Byrne.
Subs: Niamh Gallogly for A. Cleary, Bláithnaid Keogh for O. Byrne, Karley Leavy for M. Peel, Meabh Downey for V. Wall, Siofra Cleary for Sarah Powderly, Marion Farrelly for M. Thynne, Laura Dempsey for E. White, Katie Bellew for N. Lister.
Down team and scorers: Aishling Burns, Laura Morgan, Orla Boyle, Aimee Greene, Adair Trainor, Roisin Torney, Chara Laverty, Kate McKay, Clara Mulvena, Grainne McClean, Laoise Duffy (0-02), Aoife McKeown, Jess Foy, Natasha Ferris (1-0), Sorcha McCartan (1-0).
Subs: Niamh Price, Leah Milligan, Brea McKee, Cassie Moane, Dearbhla McGreevy, Meghan O'Boyle, Aoibheann McCarville, Orla Duffy, Amanda Wood.
Referee: Paul Burke - Louth