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Fairytale newcomers Meath win first All-Ireland senior crown and end Dublin's Drive for Five

The Royals were 1-11 to 0-12 winners at Croke Park.

Meath's Aoibhin Cleary and Emma Duggan celebrate at the final whistle.
Meath's Aoibhin Cleary and Emma Duggan celebrate at the final whistle.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Dublin 0-12

Meath 1-11

A FAIRYTALE STORY, and the most perfect of endings.

Meath finish their first year back in the TG4 All-Ireland senior championship, and first senior final, as champions.

And they won it out in style, ending Dublin’s Drive for Five after stellar performances from Vikki Wall, Emma Duggan and Niamh O’Sullivan in particular.

The link player pulling the strings, Wall was named Player of the Match, while two days after collecting her Leaving Cert results, 19-year-old Duggan hit a sizzling 1-2 and O’Sullivan chipped in with four points from play.

The Royals’ remarkable rise to their debut senior final in their first year back in the top-flight has been well documented. From 40-point demolitions and hammerings a few short years back, to a rebuilding job through the intermediate ranks in which they made it third time lucky in last December’s final; they now hold the Brendan Martin Cup after a major upset against one of the greatest teams to ever play the game.

Mick Bohan’s Dublin were chasing the perfect five-in-a-row, having previously won 25 straight championship games since he took over after the 2016 All-Ireland final.

There’s no denying that Meath were the better team today; their hunger, belief, and insane fitness levels shining through to the very end.

Meath enjoyed the dream start; Vikki Wall setting the tone by winning throw-in and heading on a trademark powerful run, and everything went from there for the Royals. Fouled on the edge of the D, Stacey Grimes slotted the subsequent free, before Dublin captain Sinéad Aherne did the same at the other end.

Dublin’s kick-out was a concern from early doors, while they looked exposed at the back at times. Meath, meanwhile, stuck by their tried-and-tested, extremely well-coached defensive — and then counter-attacking — system, and they asked serious questions as they turned the Sky Blues over and comfortably retained possession.

O’Sullivan was a strong scoring outlet for the Royals, but the most crucial score of the first half was Emma Duggan’s seventh-minute goal. The teenage sensation capitalised on a poor Ciara Trant kick-out before audaciously lobbing the Sky Blues ‘keeper.

The first quarter finished 1-4 to 0-4; Hannah Tyrrell — who finished with 0-7 — getting the scoreboard ticking for Dublin while corner-back Martha Byrne also broached the tigerish Meath defence. Emma Troy and Bridgetta Lynch hit scores at the other end, before breaths could be drawn at the water break following an explosive, entertaining start.

As Dublin started to find their groove, Meath did everything in their power to shut them out. With Tyrrell in fine scoring form, Monica McGuirk produced a stunning save to deny the former Irish rugby international.

From there, they tried to go more direct, firing long ball into full-forward Niamh Hetherton, but Meath kept the champions out. Always defending with 13 in their own half, the Royals broke at pace through Duggan, Wall et al, with Troy, O’Sullivan and Grimes keeping the scores coming as they exposed Dublin weaknesses.

The frustrations of Bohan’s side shone through as they resorted to last-ditch defending and hacking down Meath runners, though referee Brendan Rice kept his cards in his pocket.

Two of the game’s main scoring outlets, Tyrrell and Duggan, closed a pulsating half in style; the latter’s effort a simply sublime one to make it 1-8 to 0-6.

An open contest turned slightly cagier in the second period, with scores few and far between. Tyrrell’s point two minutes in was to be the only scoring action until the ever-impressive Carla Rowe raised her first while flag of the day to make it a three-point game with 42 minutes on the clock.

vikki-wall-and-lauren-magee Vikki Wall and Lauren Magee Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

In the interim, Dublin altered their approach, making several personnel changes, while Meath showed remarkable fitness levels to keep the same 15 on the field until the second water break.

With possession paramount, there were big turnovers at either end, while it was Grimes who hit Meath’s first point of the second half, rounding off a well-worked team move just as the sos uisce arrived.

The injection of Megan Thynne from the bench was an important one, the dual star forcing a massive turnover in defence which ultimately ended in another exquisite Duggan point.

As the 50-minute mark approached, Dublin upped the ante on the scoring front with substitute Kate Sullivan and Tyrell again making it a three-point game — 1-10 to 0-11.

Duggan missed free just after, while industrious stalwart Lyndsey Davey did what she often does best: standing up when she was most needed to cut the gap to two.

But brilliant as she was all day, O’Sullivan pointed into Hill 16 and kept Dublin chasing the game — and a great escape.

After Tyrrell landed a free following a controversial call and Niamh McEvoy sent over another stunning effort, it looked like the Sky Blues might turn the screw in the dying minutes.

But ultimately they were left to rue a raft of second-half wides and uncharacteristic errors.

Meath held firm, and saw out the perfect end to a fairytale story.

Simply remarkable scenes followed as the final whistle sounded, and Shauna Ennis lifted the Brendan Martin Cup.

Scorers for Dublin: Hannah Tyrrell 0-7 (3f), Sinéad Aherne (1f), Martha Byrne, Kate Sullivan, Carla Rowe, Lyndsey Davey, Niamh McEvoy all 0-1.

Scorers for Meath: Emma Duggan 1-2, Stacey Grimes 0-3 (2f), Niamh O’Sullivan 0-3, Emma Troy 0-2, Bridgetta Lynch 0-1.

Dublin

1. Ciara Trant (St Brigid’s)

2. Martha Byrne (Cuala), 3. Niamh Collins (Foxrock-Cabinteely) 4. Leah Caffrey (Na Fianna)

5. Olwen Carey (Thomas Davis), 6. Sinéad Goldrick (Foxrock-Cabinteely) 7. Orlagh Nolan (Ballinteer St John’s)

8. Jennifer Dunne (Cuala), 9. Lauren Magee (Kilmacud Crokes)

10. Hannah Tyrrell (Na Fianna), 11. Lyndsey Davey (Skerries Harps), 12. Carla Rowe (Clann Mhuire)

13. Sinéad Aherne (St Sylvester’s, captain), 14. Niamh Hetherton (Clontarf), 15. Siobhan Killeen (Clontarf).

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Subs

19. Caoimhe O’Connor (Clontarf) for Niamh Hetherton (27)

18. Niamh McEvoy (St Sylvester’s) for Siobhan Killeen (HT)

6. Olwen Carey (Thomas Davis) for Siobhan McGrath (HT)

21. Kate Sullivan (St Sylvester’s) for Orlagh Nolan (45)

20. Aoife Kane (Kilmacud Crokes) for Lyndsey Davey (56)

Meath

1. Monika McGuirk (Duleek/Bellewstown)

2. Emma Troy (Boardsmill), 3. Mary Kate Lynch (Summerhill), 4. Katie Newe (Ratoath)

5. Aoibheann Leahy (Navan O’Mahonys), 6. Aoibhin Cleary (Donaghmore/Ashbourne), 7. Shauna Ennis (Na Fianna, captain)

8. Orlagh Lally (Clann na nGael), 9. Maire O’Shaughnessy (Donaghmore/Ashbourne)

10. Orla Byrne Duleek/Bewllewstown), 11. Stacey Grimes (Seneschalstown), 12. Niamh O’Sullivan (Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels)

13. Vikki Wall (Dunboyne), 14. Emma Duggan (Dunboyne), 15. Bridgetta Lynch (Oldcastle)

Subs

30. Megan Thynne (Dunsany) for Bridgetta Lynch (46)

17. Niamh Gallogly (Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels) for Aoibheann Leahy (46)

23. Emma White (St Patrick’s) for Niamh O’Sullivan (58)

28. Shelly Melia (Dunboyne) for Orlaith Lally (59)

Referee: Brendan Rice (Down).

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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