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'She's still a huge part of the day and it's great for the family'

Meath captain Máire O’Shaugnessy won’t have her injured sister, Caitriona, togging out alongside her in Sunday’s All-Ireland final.

Meath captain Máire O'Shaughnessy.
Meath captain Máire O'Shaughnessy.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

SPEAKING TO MEATH captain Máire O’Shaughnessy ahead of their Division 3 league final earlier this year, she was delighted to have her sister back by her side in the Royal set-up.

Caitriona had been Stateside for some time, and her younger sister was more than pleased to have one of her nearest and dearest in the Royal set-up with her this year.

The Donaghmore-Ashbourne duo were motoring well, helping their county rebound from a devastating All-Ireland intermediate final defeat to Tyrone last September, steering them to league glory and to a Leinster final clash against Wexford.

The result that day didn’t go their way, but neither did something else shortly after.

After successfully navigating the All-Ireland stages of the championship, 26-year-old Máire and her side are now back at HQ 12 months later hoping to right the wrongs. 

But after a cruel injury, it won’t be the family affair the O’Shaughnessys had imagined.

“Poor Catriona did her cruciate there a couple of weeks ago, just after the Leinster final,” Máire frowns.

She’s not togging out the way she’d hope to be for the All-Ireland final but look, she’s still a part of it. She’s rehabbing it herself, she’s a physio so she has a bit of inside knowledge.

“She’s been rehabbing it at training and she’s been still part of the whole thing. She’s still a huge part of the day and it’s great for the family.

“We have another sister that doesn’t play at all so this weekend she’s on the back-burner a little bit! Ah no, she’s our biggest supporter so that’s great.”

Back once again though, that’s the main thing.

And Meath are most definitely seeking redemption for that 6-8 to 1-14 loss to Tyrone. An eight-minute period early in the first half where the Red Hand scored 3-1 sent them on their way and left the Royals — who never gave up — chasing for the remainder of the game.

A chance now to right the wrongs, indeed.

“Look, last year we were quite inexperienced going into it,” O’Shaughnessy, who works for the Simon Community, agrees. “It was two very different teams going into the final last year. [2017 finalists] Tyrone were back with a vengeance, and everything was just so new to us, the whole occasion and everything.

This year, I think the mind-frame’s a little bit different. We’re just hoping to bring a performance really, which is something we didn’t do last year. That’s the biggest regret that we have, that we didn’t portray how we can play as a team.

“This year, we’re determined to do that. Whatever way the result goes, we’ll have no regrets.”

League silverware and promotion to the Division 2 ranks spurred the side on this year, as did reaching a Leinster final. But there, they were edged out by Wexford, before falling to Sunday’s opponents Tipperary in their All-Ireland group stage opener.

maire-oshaughnessy-and-niamh-osullivan-dejected-at-the-end-of-the-game Dejection after last year's final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Intermediate championship is a minefield, however, and here they are on the biggest day of the ladies football year chasing the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup after picking themselves up and battling their way through the rest of the competition. 

“The intermediate championship is so tough, it’s really, really hard to get out of,” O’Shaughnessy continues. “There’s teams there like Wexford and that who aren’t in an All-Ireland this year but no doubt they’ll be contenders next year.

“It’s an incredibly busy competition, and a hard one to get out of so we’re lucky we’re in the All-Ireland final.”

She adds, on that Tipperary loss, and how Sunday comes as a completely different challenge: “Look, we hadn’t played Tipp since the 2017 semi-final so we were a bit unfamiliar.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but we learned a lot from the day. All-Ireland day is completely different, it’s anyone’s ticket. We’ll be hoping to right those wrongs from Ardfinnan. 

“You have teams in All-Ireland finals and then they go amiss for a couple of years, we were determined for that not to happen. We have youth on our side so there’s constant talent coming into the team and that helps keep the standard up. There’s a core group of girls that have stuck together the last number of years.

We wanted to be back again this year, we’ve achieved that now and the next step is to win it.

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Emma Duffy

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