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The secret to Meath's success? Sticking together, says star midfielder

Máire O’Shaughnessy and the Royals are back-to-back All-Ireland senior champions.

Meath celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup.
Meath celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“THIS MANAGEMENT GROUP have been together for six years nearly,” Meath midfielder Máire O’Shaughnessy points out at one stage. “That’s special in itself.

“That is the secret to our success, that we have stayed together. We know each other so well. Even though there is a vast array of ages on the team, there is a lot of experienced players who are in their 30s and then some in their early 20s. I think experience did stand to us.”

It was a champions’ performance from the Royals in yesterday’s All-Ireland senior final; 3-10 to 1-7 the final scoreline against Kerry, a dominant nine-point win to secure back-to-back Brendan Martin Cups.

Question marks remain over whether the Royals will be sticking together going forward, with Vikki Wall and Orlagh Lally both AFLW-bound and backroom team exits expected, but it was all about the job at hand yesterday.

It was an unquestionably shaky start. The Kingdom, appearing in their first final since 2012, hit the ground running. They had 1-2 on the board before Meath got off the mark.

That didn’t bother Eamonn Murray’s side.

“We are quite good at not panicking,” O’Shaughnessy assured in the post-match press conference. “We have been further behind at different times throughout the last couple of years and it hasn’t fazed us. We are just a team that doesn’t really, really do panic.

“Even in terms of the personalities on the team, it is a very chilled bunch. Everyone is quite laid back and easy going. That is probably the key to why we all get on so well. There is no big, big personality. Everyone is very chilled.

“Under pressure, we just perform. That has been drilled into us from our management team. We practice and practice, we spend hours and hours and hours, we are always the last to leave Dunganny [Meath Centre of Excellence]. We do these things over and over again. When you practice things that much, it just becomes habit.

“We knew what Kerry were going to bring, we knew they were fantastically skilled footballers, especially at getting goals, so it wasn’t a shock. We just knew we had to switch on then and not leave more goals go in and leave us with a mountain to climb. Panic didn’t set in.”

The excellent Donaghmore/Ashbourne midfielder and former captain felt there was “less of a hype” through the build-up to this year’s final, suggesting the two-week turnaround or lack of meet and greet as factors.

“Personally I didn’t feel like there was more hype or more pressure on us or anything like that. It was just a different challenge. Last year we were heading in against Dublin, had never played them, maybe as massive underdogs. This year we were heading in maybe as slight favourites.

“We were familiar-ish with Kerry. Hadn’t played them in over a year but were keeping a close eye on them. Look, they were completely different years. We kept our preparations the same and it worked out for us.”

maire-oshaughnessy-and-niamh-carmody Máire O'Shaughnessy on the ball yesterday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Talk of back-to-back didn’t seep in, she assures. “We’ve always approached it one game at a time. We’ve rigid routines around matches, whether it’s an All-Ireland final or first round of the league, that doesn’t change. It’s not something that fazes us. All that talk out there, there are a lot of Meath people with confidence in our ability so that was thrown around a lot. It’s in the media, it’s fine. But those things never come into our camp.”

Jubilation certainly did at as the final whistle sounded and captain Shauna Ennis prepared to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand once again. O’Shaughnessy vowed to enjoy the celebrations, laughing that they’re “quite dedicated” at doing so.

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Her boyfriend, Meath footballer Shane McEntee was passed onto her on FaceTime from Mali, as the team walked around the pitch. “We’re gone worldwide,” she grinned.

The feeling just as sweet as last year, no doubt? Or maybe even sweeter?

“I think all year it’s been completely different,” O’Shaughnessy re-iterated.

“I know people have been saying we haven’t been playing as well this year but look, I don’t see it like that. Other teams have gotten better. It’s such a tough competition. It really is just great for ladies football. The bar is constantly, constantly rising. We haven’t been allowed play our game – that’s not because we’re not playing it, it’s because teams aren’t letting us.

“The standard of ladies football is rising and rising. It’s such a privilege to be involved in such a competitive team and such a competitive competition. It’s more a testament to other teams than a fault of ours.”

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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