How chipping away at rocks, stones and pebbles motivated Meath to All-Ireland glory

Emma Troy gives a brilliant insight into the Royals’ remarkable rise.

IN THE WAKE of Meath’s historic All-Ireland triumph last month, several players spoke about using the fact that they were written off to spur them on.

“There were a few comments that we were lucky to be here. That definitely would have motivated me,” as Vikki Wall said in the bowels of the Hogan Stand, with Niamh Gallogly also referencing it in a post-match interview.

beko-club-champion-2021 Meath and Boardsmill footballer Emma Troy at the launch of the 2021 Beko Club Champion. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Emma Troy tells a brilliant story when she’s asked about it almost a month on. Rather than use words, she focused more along the lines of sticks and stones.

When Paul Garrigan joined Eamonn Murray’s coaching set-up, he gave each of the players a rock.

“This is what you’re working with, what you have to do now is try and chip away at that rock,” the Wicklow man said.

He referenced the rock the whole way through the journey, giving everyone “a medium-sized stone” after they made it third time’s a charm in last December’s All-Ireland intermediate final.

And this year, when they scaled the highest of heights and reached the senior showpiece in their first season back in the top-flight, another gift arrived.

“Before the final, he gave us a little pebble and he said, ‘You’ve chipped away so far, this is all you have left. Chip away at this, you’ll crack it open and you’ll find out what’s inside,’” star defender Troy, who was nominated for an All-Star yesterday, smiles.

“It was such a lovely reference the whole way throughout and that was something the whole team would have used as motivation going into the games, and to help them focus.”

Given out in envelopes, that pebble now lies in an “All-Ireland final final box” of treasured 2021 memories Troy’s mother organised for her.

She laughs that her team-mates’ might not have kept theirs just as safe, and that Garrigan and co. will have to come up with something new for next year.

paul-garrigan Paul Garrigan. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The monumental decider victory, in which they ended Dublin’s Drive for Five, has “just about sunk in” with celebrations still ongoing.

The Royals will continue to enjoy their success as Brendan Martin winters on the Banks of the Boyne, but the focus will switch to 2022 fairly swift. They certainly don’t want this to be a one-off.

 ”It is just amazing what we have achieved this year, just delighted,” Troy nods.

“It is great that we have done it and won a senior, but it is going to be much more difficult to replicate it, so that’ll be a big aim for next year, to keep contending with the top teams and be able to show that we are consistent in our performances.”

That, they were this year and over the past few seasons as they climbed the ranks.

Their stunning All-Ireland final display was the culmination of years of hard work, meticulous preparation and building under Murray and his management team, Troy nods.

She, Murray and strength and conditioning coach Eugene Eivers hail from the Boardsmill club; her insights on both invaluable. “The two lads played a huge part, obviously. Eamonn with his motivational speeches and Eugene with all the fitness work to get us running up and down the pitch.”

Eivers, who was Donegal’s S&C coach under Jim McGuinness, organised individualised programmes for each of the players over lockdown and put in serious work to have them in top shape this season.

The goal was to be “the hardest working team in Ireland,” with an emphasis on work-rate at all times.

“I feel like the year before we weren’t as prepared coming into championship. This year, everybody was so into it, they just wanted to get the best out of themselves. When we came back, we were straight flat to the floor running, not a bother on us and Eugene just kicked it on from there. I feel like it really made a difference. We were so fit this year as a whole team, and it definitely helped us get over the line.”

And not only was their physical conditioning key, their mental outlook and mindset was too, with sports psychologist Kelley Fay from Tyrone playing a massive part.

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That, coupled with belief and confidence from a strong league campaign in which they won Division 2 and achieved promotion to the top-flight, ultimately helped Meath realise they were capable of going all the way.

emma-troy-celebrates-after-the-game-with-aoibheann-leahy Troy celebrating after the All-Ireland final with Aoibheann Leahy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Confidence was building within the camp each game, and we had our sports psychologist in with us each week before the matches and she’d get you rared for the games too,” Troy explains.

“She’d be telling you to focus on all the positives and telling you to focus on what you have to do for the game ahead.

“Girls could have one-on-one contact with her. Some girls would ask for individual meetings, we always a had a group Zoom on the Wednesday before the games beforehand and she’d either run through tactics or just ask us what we wanted to talk about for that session.

“She might put up a Mentimeter beforehand and we’d discuss whatever we put into that or whatever we wanted to discuss during our session with her.”

Rocks, stones, pebbles.

Physical and mental conditioning, group Zoom calls and Mentimeter presentations.

And pure and utter hard work.

Just some of the secrets of Meath’s success.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey chat all things URC and Ireland Women on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Emma Duffy

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