'Back with a bang' - Meath's Marion Farrelly

May 11, 2024

Meath's Marion Farrelly

By Daire Walsh

After originally returning to the inter-county football scene in a different capacity last year, 2024 has seen Marion Farrelly enjoying a fresh lease of life at the fulcrum of the Meath attack. 

Two years after captaining the Royal County to an All-Ireland Minor ‘B’ title against Roscommon, Farrelly started in the forward line when Meath were beaten by Tyrone in the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship decider of 2018 at Croke Park.

While she was an extended panellist when the Royals finally got their hands on a national intermediate crown at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the St Michael’s club star spent much of that campaign commuting up and down from Cork where she was studying for a Masters of Science in Physiotherapy at UCC. 

A subsequent desire to focus on her college work meant Farrelly missed out on Meath’s outstanding league and championship successes in the two years that followed, before 2023 saw her answering a call to join the Meath set-up as a physiotherapist. This helped her to regain an appetite for featuring at the highest level once again and when new manager Shane McCormack approached her about a potential playing comeback last winter, Farrelly jumped at the opportunity. 

“I probably would have missed a lot of the craic, so I think last year made me want to go back a little bit more versus other years when you’re not as close. Last year I was on the sideline and you’re nearly stopping yourself from going onto the pitch! I knew last year I wanted to do it this year,” Farrelly explained. 

“I always had it in the back of my mind when I stopped in 2018 or even 2020, that I would always like to go back and give it a couple of years of good commitment. 

“I probably would, in previous years, not have done a lot of pre-season with the county because I would have been in the middle of college. This year I just gave it a go from the start and so far I’m thoroughly enjoying it.” 

This has certainly shown in her performances thus in 2024 with Farrelly registering an impressive tally of 5-12 (0-4f) from nine starts across the Lidl National Football League and the TG4 Leinster Senior Football Championship. 

She was one of a host of players to be afforded a rest last Sunday when Meath lost out to Dublin in a third round clash in the latter competition, a game that served as a precursor to tomorrow’s provincial showpiece affair between the same two counties at Croke Park (throw-in 11.45am). 

In stark contrast to her previous appearance in the ground, the expectation within the Royal County is now far greater for Farrelly’s latest outing as a player at GAA HQ. This is thanks in no small part to the seven triumphs Meath have enjoyed at the Jones’ Road venue since that day — including their magnificent back-to-back All-Ireland SFC final wins of 2021 and 2022. 

“Back in 2018, we were just delighted to get there. Obviously to get the result would have been an added bonus, but I think the idea of playing in Croke Park was a huge, huge thing for us. A lot of the girls now would have had many outings in Croke Park and probably the Croke Park experience doesn’t faze them as much. 

“I think maybe when we played in 2018, we were just caught up with the surroundings and the environment, but I think girls now will be more into the challenge of actually going out and trying to win games. Rather than just turning up.” 

Although there is the possibility of getting their hands on a first Leinster senior title in 24 years, their status as recent winners of the competition means that Meath will have ambitions to leave a lasting impression on the latest edition of the Brendan Martin Cup. 

Should Meath come out on top of their duel with Dublin, they will find themselves alongside the runners-up from tomorrow's TG4 Connacht SFC final between Mayo and Galway, as well as provincial rivals Kildare, in Group 4 of the All-Ireland senior championship. 

In the event that they come out on the wrong side of the final scoreline tomorrow, they would instead move into Group 1 with the winners of next weekend’s TG4 Ulster SFC showdown involving Armagh and Donegal, and Munster outfit Tipperary. Regardless of where they end up, Farrelly isn’t envisaging an easy route back to the knockout rounds of the senior championship. 

“It’s not going to be easy, no matter if you win or lose. The groups are hard, you can see it even in the league campaign. The likes of Galway gave us a great run for it, they beat us. Even Mayo, they’ve come on a lot since the first game we played in the league. 

“It’s not going to be straightforward to be able to progress in the All-Ireland series. It’s going to be tough, no matter which group you get.” 

While her presence in the Meath full-forward line means she has moved on from her previous sideline role, physiotherapy very much remains at the centre of Farrelly’s working life. Having been based locally with Kells Physiotherapy last year, she is currently practicing out of Mullingar in Co. Westmeath. 

This has left her with more travelling to do than when she was a backroom team member, but as Farrelly explains, it is a switch that has actually been to her advantage. 

“I would have been based in Kells last year, but I’m actually working down in the hospital in Mullingar at the moment. I switched jobs to get a little bit more free time in the evenings. It’s hard when you’re working privately, you kind of have to do a few evening shifts. I’ve changed a little bit, so I can get a little bit more time for football when I have the opportunities,” Farrelly added. 

“With work now, it suits me a little bit better to get the evenings off and have that little bit of freedom to do training or even to have a little bit of downtime, which is important with football.” 

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