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# Hard Goodbye
Losing Meath management 'like giving baby back' and need for LGFA incentives to keep players
Emma Duggan says Eamonn Murray and his backroom team have helped shape the brilliant player she has become.

MEATH ALL-IRELAND winner Emma Duggan says there was some suspicion in the squad that their manager Eamonn Murray might be stepping away this year.

eamonn-murray-celebrates-the-final-whistle Tom Maher / INPHO Meath's All-Ireland winning mastermind Eamonn Murray. Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

She recalls an “emotional” dressing-room and an “eerie atmosphere” in Croke Park after this year’s All-Ireland final against Kerry, where they completed an incredible back-to-back achievement. He confirmed those fears when he posted a goodbye message to the group shortly before news of his departure was confirmed to the public at the end of August.

Subsequently, two other members of that brilliant Meath management set-up which delivered that senior All-Ireland as Paul Garrigan and Eugene Eivers were both added to Colm O’Rourke’s backroom team with the Meath men’s team.

“I think we’re all trying to form our goodbye messages at this stage to all of the lads,” says Duggan about the departures, “but we’d all be in regular contact with Eamonn anyway whether he’s our manager or not so we won’t be complete strangers. We’ll definitely send him a message or two and probably a bit more than that.

“We’re hoping to have our presentation night in December so I suppose that’ll be a good night, and a bit of closure.”

Murray has dedicated years of service to the development of Ladies Football in Meath, while Garrigan and Eivers have both been lauded for their contribution to the Royals since coming on board. Duggan quickly runs out of superlatives to capture how much they have all impacted the progression of her game.

“The [Meath] lads are very lucky to have Paul and Eugene on board. I can’t speak highly enough of both of them. Paul has changed our mindsets on football in general over the last six years or so. He’s brought me on so much as a footballer. There aren’t enough words to express my thanks to him. The big thing for us before Eugene came in three years ago was our S&C and physical shape. It was something we did struggle with and something we had to improve to get to the highest level.

“Eugene has taken us to a whole new level, and more importantly than our S&C is that all the players have a really good relationship with him which I think is really important in a team.

“Eamonn is a different manager to every other manager I know in the country. He genuinely wants the best for every single one of his players. Whether we’re down in the dumps or winning All-Irelands, he always wants to see us with a smile on our faces and making sure that we enjoy our football.

What’s always stood to me is that he’s always had our best interests at heart. He’s the most sincere man and his honesty often gets him in trouble but it’s something I would never change about him and he’s going to be missed.

“He’s a big figure in all of our lives and he’s acted as a father figure for all of us so he definitely won’t be a stranger and we’re not going to get rid of him too fast.

“He’s been involved in all of my underage teams since U12. It’s like giving your baby back so it’s going to be very tough for him and a lifestyle change but he can go out on a high.”

These big losses in personnel come on the back of All-Ireland winning duo Vikki Wall and Orlagh Lally making moves to the AFLW. Wall has signed for North Melbourne while Lally has joined the Fremantle Dockers. 

As that sport continues to expand Down Under, it’s effectively no longer possible for LGFA players who are attached toe AFLW clubs to balance their time between both sports. That means Meath will embark on their three-in-a-row quest without two of the best players in the sport.

vikki-wall-and-orlagh-lally-celebrate-with-the-cup Evan Treacy / INPHO Meath duo Vikki Wall and Orlagh Lally. Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Duggan isn’t quite sure what can be done to retain our Irish talents when the Aussie Rules offer is such a tempting one to consider. But she would like to see some steps taken towards incentivising Ladies Footballers and making Gaelic Games the more appealing choice of the two.

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“With the amount of Irish players going off to AFLW, something does need to be done to incentivise the girls, or even encourage the girls that are staying,” she says.

“It’s hard to comment on because it’s a great opportunity for girls that are going over there, and you can’t take anything away from that.

“At the same time, you don’t want to lose your best players in the ladies game. That’s what the next generation want to see on All-Ireland final day, the best players playing. If you are losing those players, what’s going to happen? It might not be as influential, or have as big an effect on that younger generation.

“I probably don’t have the right answer in terms of what can be done, but I do think something should be done.”

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