Meath 2-12 Kildare 0-8
The ''Beast From The East'' came and put us all into sporting cold storage. Not easy being house bound surrounded with dozens of loaves and a propensity to pile on weight! Then it went. Relief all round. Those of a certain age could look forward to sport being played and those who could play simply played. Then the Beast MK 2 came back late Friday night. We shuddered, not from the cold but from the prospect of no football being played. Games across the nation were cancelled but those Royal LGFA people weren't going to lie down and spend an afternoon in front of the TV.
When you see the county manager and his star corner forward aided and abetted by other volunteers clearing snow of the Dunganny pitch three hours before throw in, you know you are amongst special people. Kildare were the visitors and the pre match favorites. A rangy team that share a border with their opponents, this game wouldn't be for the faint hearted. Old rivers run deep. Pride of place and county at stake. This was going to be tasty.
Kildare opened brightly, playing into a cross field wind that in theory should have benefitted Meath. The Lilywhite Ladies settled and quickly went into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead. They were sharper and moved the ball through the hands in style. Meath didn't panic but learning from the Roscommon match where their opponents struck early and held on, the Royal ladies this time dug in and sought those famous inches. Last gasp tackles, a hand in here, a big fetch there, the load continually being spread amongst the Meath team. Full back Orlagh Lally apart from doing a solid stint at the edge of the square, arrived in the opponents square and stole a point.
If Kildare were good, and they were, then they were going to earn this win the hard way. Stacy Grimes, an unerring free taker, kept the Royal in touch and then nudged them ahead. Niamh O'Sullivan played her captains part despite being tightly marked but never hid. Aoibhin Cleary fresh from her O'Connor cup DCU victory dug out two glorious points against the head. Half time arrived and Meath went in two points clear but the prospect of a second half mountain lay ahead. A yellow card had removed Rosin Byrne, Kildare's star forward in the latter part of the first half but Meath hadn't capitalized perhaps as expected.
The Meath management team all through this league campaign have exuded calm and made the right calls. The second half saw Meath retain the ball for longer. Now it was Kildare forced into heavy running, chasing balls delivered to a Royal off the shoulder runner. Vikki Wall, tightly marshaled in the opening half, came into the match. Using her strength and vision with clever interplay involving O'Sullivan, Meath suddenly opened up a gap. The tireless combination of Megan Thynne and Grimes chased back to break up a Kildare attack and from the turn over Shauna Ennis dinked a stone cold goal, perfectly executed, but taking a nasty shoulder for her efforts. Earlier Lally also took a heavy tackle but echoing the Royal stoicism for getting up and on with it, those ladies simply did that.
It was fifteen minutes before Kildare got their first score of the second half. Then they are awarded a penalty which though well taken, went a foot the wrong side of the post. Meath hadn't rested on the ropes, no, Kildare had to come out fighting and this they did. Twice they rattled the post. The Meath keeper Monica McGuirk was the essence of calm, twice making brilliant stops but it was her booming restarts that made the difference. The defense knitted together again. Then the tireless Grimes got a rather unlucky Yellow Card. But her comrades dug in.
Meath finished out on the front foot. The return from injury of Fiona O Neill added extra pace up front. Marion Farrelly made herself available for the player in possession. Wall and O'Sullivan stamped their brand on proceedings. There was going to be one winner and it would be wearing Royal Green. But this win was a game dug out against worthy opponents. This was a team win. The keeper already mentioned. A full back line who gave it all, Newe,
Lally and Powderly stood firm. Emma Troy a rock at centre back with a glorious interception at a vital time was flanked by the excellent Ennis and Niamh Gallogly who stood up to early Lilywhite pressure. Midfield anchored the team. The speedy Aoibhin Cleary along with a second half power performance from Maire O'Shaughnessy.
Meath essentially are defined by lethal finishing forwards. Any successful, county needs an ice cold free taker. Stacey Grimes is just that. Her twin terror partner, Megan Thynne, worked her socks off, covering every blade in cold Dunganny. Kildare had done their homework on Meath's big three front runners, Wall, O'Sullivan and Dempsey but class can never be stopped, only delayed and with the management team earning its corn with some second half forward switches, clever inter play wound up a Meath penalty, Wall buried it. Meath ran out worthy winners. This match was a victory to be savoured. Well done to all concerned.
Meath scorers: Stacey Grimes 0-5, Vikki Wall 1-1, Shauna Ennis 1-0, Niamh O'Sullivan 0-3, Aoibhin Cleary 0-2 and Orlagh Lally 0-1
Meath: Monica McGuirk, Katie Newe, Orlagh Lally, Sarah Powderly, Niamh Gallogly, Emma Troy, Shauna Ennis, Maire O'Shaughnessy Aoibhin Cleary, Megan Thynne, Niamh O'Sullivan Capt, Emma White, Laura Dempsey, Vikki Wall, Stacey Grimes. Subs: Marion Farrelly for Dempsey, Fiona O'Neill for Gallogly, Niamh Lister
Kildare: Rebecca McGuirk, Shauna Kendrick, Amy Horan, Rachel Cribben, Louise Scully, Rachael Corrigan, Claire Sullivan, Trina Duggan, Aisling Curley, Niamh Sinnott, Roisin Byrne, Grace Clifford, Ellen Dowling , Siobhan O'Sullivan, Mikaela McKenna. Subs used: Laura Quigley, Shannon Doheney, Molly Price, Karen Kelly.
Referee: John Gallagher Dublin