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Meath make up for 2018 heartbreak with league final win as Fermanagh crowned champions elsewhere

The Royals landed the Division 3 title in Clones, title while Eimear Smyth was Fermanagh’s hero in the Division 4 final.

Meath players celebrate their league glory.
Meath players celebrate their league glory.
Image: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Ohhh Meath 4-11

Sligo 1-7

EMMA DUGGAN’S EARLY goal paved the way for last year’s beaten finalists Meath who finally gained promotion to the second tier of the Lidl NFL with a comfortable Division 3 final win over Sligo.

Eamonn Murray’s side were heartbroken after losing the league and TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate deciders last year. But goals from Duggan, Stacey Grimes and Kelsey Nesbitt (two) put Meath into an unassailable lead and they cruised to victory at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones.

Meath beat Sligo 1-13 to 1-3 on 16 February, but the Connacht outfit bounced back since then, winning five of their six games. Meath scored first here and restricted their opponents to a single point in the first half.

Vikki Wall had a thunderous shot saved by Sligo goalkeeper Noelle Gormley, however Emma Duggan made no mistake with her finish in the fourth minute.

Shauna Ennis was on hand to give the assist and Gormley couldn’t prevent the goal on this occasion. Niamh Gallogly tagged on a point to extend the lead.

Sligo were able to work the ball into the final third but couldn’t apply the finishing touch. Star forward Katie Walsh sent her first two frees wide.

After Walsh’s second miss Grimes got through to score her first point and Meath were 1-2 to 0-0 in front by the 12th minute. And while Sligo were missing chances the Meath defence were fantastic too.

Meath lost full-forward Nesbitt to a yellow card in the 18th minute when she collided with Gormley, but it took until the 24th minute before Emma Kevany won another Sligo free and Katie Walsh tapped it over from right in front of the goal.

Grimes cancelled that out with a free of her own, and after Monica McGuirk did well to deny Kevany, Meath capitalised with a couple of points from Duggan to shore up a comfortable eight-point lead at half-time.

Meath v Sligo - Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 3 Final Vikki Wall on the attack. Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Grimes scored her goal with less than 15 seconds on the clock in the second half and two minutes later Nesbitt finished another goal past substitute goalkeeper Rachel Quigley.

Meath weren’t done yet and Duggan found Nesbitt for her second goal in less than a minute.

Kevany provided a consolation with Sligo’s first point from play in the 35th minute. Lauren Boles scored a goal seven minutes and Nicola Brennan quickly added a point.

Sligo pushed for a way back into the game with Walsh (two), Lisa Casey and Brennan on target but Meath’s lead was too big and there was no way back.

Scorers for Meath: K Nesbitt 2-0, S Grimes 1-4 (0-2f), E Duggan 1-2, N Gallogly 0-1, V Wall 0-1, M Thynne 0-1, A Cleary 0-1, O Lally 0-1.

Scorers for Sligo: L Boles 1-0, K Walsh 0-3 (0-2f), N Brennan 0-2, E Kevany 0-1, L Casey 0-1.

Meath: M McGuirk; K Newe, S Powderly, S Ennis; S Wall, A Cleary, N Gallogly; M O’Shaughnessy, O Lally; V Wall, E Duggan, M Thynne; E White, K Nesbitt, S Grimes.

Subs: O Byrne for White (46), O Duff for Newe (55), K Byrne for Lally (55), B Lynch for Nesbitt (57), N Sheridan for S Wall (60).

Sligo: N Gormley; A Morrisroe, M McNamara, J Mulligan; N Brennan, B Byrne, AM Coleman; R Goodwin, LA Laffey; L Boles, C Gorman, S Naughton; K Walsh, E Kevany, L Casey.

Subs: R Quigley for Gormley (half-time), S Regan for Kevany (35), G O’Loughlin for Coleman (46), S Reynolds for Laffey (49), J Brehany for Casey (54).

Referee: E Moran (Kerry)

***

Fermanagh 2-8

Antrim 1-10

Eimear Smyth scored the winner as Fermanagh claimed promotion and their first league title since 2007 with a Lidl NFL Division 4 final victory over the 14 players of Antrim.

Fermanagh’s last league final appearance was eight years ago, when they lost out to Clare in the Division 3 decider, and they ended a famine at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones.

Antrim v Fermanagh - Lidl Ladies NFL Division 4 Final Fermangah celebrate their win. Source: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE

The hero of their semi-final comeback win over Limerick, Smyth, was outstanding once again and she finished with 1-6, with Róisín O’Reilly’s second goal making a big difference in the end.

Fermanagh had beaten Antrim in the opening round of the league, a 3-11 to 3-9 thriller at The Dub on 10 February. But they trailed 1-6 to 1-5 at half-time here.

Fermanagh captain Joanne Doonan won the toss and elected to play with the breeze in the first half, and just 14 seconds in Smyth had the ball in the net.

Fermanagh midfielder Aoife Flanagan won the break from the throw-in, Lisa Maguire received the pass and she in turn gave the ball to the on-rushing Smyth who blasted low into the bottom right corner of Anna McCann’s goal.

Antrim didn’t score until the third minute but points from twin sisters Caitlín and Aoife Taggart reduced the arrears to the minimum by the fifth minute.

The teams were level after the quarter-hour mark when Caitlín Taggert tapped over a free, her second point, and then Antrim struck for a goal.

Captain Saoirse Tennyson got through from midfield and she launched a speculative shot that landed just below Róisín Gleeson’s crossbar.

Antrim were 1-6 to 1-4 up after that 19th minute score and moments later Smyth got through again up the other end, only to see her shot rebound off the post.

Antrim v Fermanagh - Lidl Ladies NFL Division 4 Final Action from Clones. Source: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE

Smyth scored a brilliant point before half-time to bring her tally to 1-4, and Antrim were just one point ahead at the break.

Smyth scored first in the second half too, and the teams were level again after 36 minutes. But back-to-back frees from Cooper and Carey helped regain the lead for Antrim.

Doonan closed that gap and after a patient build-up and pass from Aisling O’Brien, O’Reilly scored an awesome goal into the top-corner of the Antrim net.

Antrim were in real trouble but points from Cooper and Mairiosa McGourty looked to have saved them.

It was 2-7 to 1-10 moving towards full-time and Antrim had Lara Dahunsi sent to the sin-bin for an off-the-ball incident before Smyth scored the winning free.

Scorers for Fermanagh: E Smyth 1-6 (0-3f), R O’Reilly 1-0, B Bogue 0-1, J Doonan 0-1.

Scorers for Antrim: S Tennyson 1-0, C Carey 0-3 (0-2f), M Cooper 0-3 (0-1f), C Taggart 0-2 (0-1f), A Taggart 0-1, M McGourty 0-1.

Fermanagh: R Gleeson; M Maguire, E Murphy, M Flynn; M McGloin, C Murphy, S McQuaid; R O’Reilly, A Flanagan; L Maguire, E Smyth, D Maguire; A O’Brien, J Doonan, B Bogue.

Subs: A Maguire for Murphy (33-39, blood), A Maguire for McQuaid (41), A Woods for McGloin (45), S Britton for O’Brien (49), D McManus for L Maguire (52), A McGovern for Murphy (63).

Antrim: A McCann; N Killen, M Hanna, O Corr; S Tennyson, C Brown, K Farren; A McFarland, L Dahunsi; C Taggart, C Carey, SL McLaughlin; M Cooper, M McCurdy, A Taggart.

Subs: M Magee for C Taggart (half-time), M McGourty for McLaughlin (half-time), N Enright for Farren (40).

Referee: S Curley (Galway).

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About the author:

Daragh Small

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