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Meath crowned back-to-back All-Ireland champions after nine-point win over Kerry

46,440 fans watched Eamonn Murray’s side triumph at Croke Park once more.

Vikki Wall was immense for Meath this afternoon, though the Royals finished the game without her.
Vikki Wall was immense for Meath this afternoon, though the Royals finished the game without her.
Image: Tom Maher/INPHO

Meath 3-10

Kerry 1-7

MEATH ARE ALL-IRELAND senior ladies football champions for the second year in-a-row.

An impressive team performance saw Eamonn Murray’s side past Kerry at Croke Park, as 46,440 watched on in a sea of green and gold.

Goals from Player of the Match Niamh O’Sullivan, Emma Troy and substitute Bridgetta Lynch were key as the Royals emerged nine-point winners and made it a league and championship double after a dominant display.

Vikki Wall was immense with three points capping an all-round colossus showing, Aoibhín Cleary also produced a towering individual performance, and O’Sullivan showed her class with 1-2.

Kerry star forward Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh recorded the same tally at the other end, as Declan Quill and Darragh Long’s side contested their first All-Ireland senior final since 2012 after an impressive journey.

But their wait for their first Brendan Martin Cup lift since 1993 goes on, Meath captain Shauna Ennis climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand once more as the Royals’ fairytale story continues.

It was a sensational, frenetic opening 10 minutes at HQ. First came the dream start for Kerry, and then, the perfect response from the champions.

Subdued very early doors with an injury fear for Wall and wasteful, nervy moments on both sides, Kerry half-back Ciara Murphy opened the scoring with three minutes on the clock. After missing her first free-kick, Ní Mhuircheartaigh hit form with a devastating two-minute spell: making no mistake with her second placed ball, and brilliantly lobbing Monica McGuirk after a kick-out malfunction to make it 1-2 to 0-0 in the seventh minute.

louise-ni-mhuircheartaigh-scores-the-first-goal Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh facing Katie Newe. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Meath hit back straight away, expert free-taker Stacey Grimes getting them off the mark before Troy raised a green flag. The Boardsmill defender fired home after good work from Kelsey Nesbitt in the build-up. Wall levelled matters at 1-2 a-piece in the 12th minute with a stunning curling free from the right, and the AFLW-bound ace repeated the trick with an almost identical effort just afterwards. 

Kerry didn’t score for the good part of 15 minutes; Grimes, Troy — after an outstanding flick-up from Emma Duggan — and Wall all hit big points from play into the Canal End, as the Royals exploited the Kingdom kick-out, the excellent Cleary to the fore in that department. She lost half-back partner Aoibheann Leahy to a worrying injury, but Meath rolled on, their trusted defensive system in good stead, and remarkable fitness and conditioning shining through.

Síofra O’Shea, Paris McCarthy and Lorraine Scanlon helped Kerry get the scoreboard ticking over once again in the closing minutes of the first half, but Niamh O’Sullivan and Grimes did likewise at the other end.

Murray’s side were off target with a few other chances — one from Wall perhaps controversially ruled out by HawkEye —  but still well in control and 1-8 to 1-5 to the better at the break.

Kerry started the second half brightest, with O’Shea and Ní Mhuircheartaigh (free) cutting the deficit to one. Duggan wasn’t having her easiest day at the office in terms of shooting, but the Dunboyne dementor got one of the biggest roars of the afternoon when she sent a long-range free over.

The second half trundled along, in real need of a spark, and that arrived when Niamh O’Sullivan palmed home into the Hill 16 End in the 45th minute. The Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels stalwart had the last say after key involvements from Duggan, Grimes and Lynch after a kick-out mishap, the gap brought to five — 2-9 to 1-7.

Lynch slammed in Meath’s third goal of the game three minutes later. It came after a trademark Wall break up the field; Grimes’ effort blocked down, Lynch’s palm from the scramble rattling the crossbar, before the Oldcastle forward made no mistake with the rebound.

shauna-ennis-lifts-the-brendan-martin-cup-for-meath-as-all-ireland-champions Shauna Ennis lifting the Brendan Martin Cup. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Truth be told, the second half was sloppy at times; poor shooting at both ends, several shots dropping short and questionable decision-making, but there were moments of magic too; huge Meath turnovers, in particular.

Ní Mhuircheartaigh was well-marshalled, while Meath had to finish the game without Wall, the 2021 Footballer of the Year shown a yellow card for persistent fouling, charging the last offence. She left the field to boos at referee Maggie Farrelly, the crowds’ frustration at certain decisions boiling over.

O’Sullivan ultimately sealed the deal with another exceptional effort, bringing her tally to 1-2 for the day with three minutes to go, before Ní Mhuircheartaigh let fly from distance and hit the crossbar.

One of the last acts of the game, it summed up Kerry’s second half as they ran largely on fumes and Meath reigned supreme once more. 

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

Scorers for Kerry: Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh 1-2 (2f), Síofra O’Shea 0-2, Ciara Murphy, Paris McCarthy, Lorraine Scanlon all 0-1.

Meath

1. Monica McGuirk (Dulleek Bellewstown)

2. Shauna Ennis (Na Fianna — captain), 3. Mary Kate Lynch (Summerhill), 4. Katie Newe (Ratoath)

5. Aoibheann Leahy (Navan O’Mahony’s), 6. Emma Troy (Boardsmill), 7. Aoibhín Cleary (Donaghmore Ashbourne)

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

10. Megan Thynne (Dunsany), 11. Emma Duggan (Dunboyne), 12. Kelsey Nesbitt (Simonstown)

13. Vikki Wall (Dunboyne), 14. Stacey Grimes (Seneschalstown), 15. Niamh O’Sullivan (Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels)

Subs

22. Orla Byrne (Duleek Bellewstown) for Aoibheann Leahy (23, injury)

21. Bridgetta Lynch (Oldcastle) for Kelsey Nesbitt (42)

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27. Orlagh Duff (Dee Rangers) for Katie Newe (57)

29. Emma White (St Patrick’s) for Stacey Grimes (57)

17. Sarah Wall (Dunboyne) for Megan Thynne (57)

Kerry

1. Ciara Butler (Castlegregory)

2. Julie O’Sullivan (Inbhear Sceine Gaels), 3. Kayleigh Cronin (Dr Crokes), 4. Eilís Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds) 

5. Aishling O’Connell (Éire Óg, Cork), 6. Emma Costello (Firies), 7. Ciara Murphy (MKL Gaels)

8. Lorraine Scanlon (Castleisland Desmonds), 9. Cáit Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)

10. Niamh Carmody (Finuge/St Senans), 11. Síofra O’Shea (Southern Gaels), 12. Anna Galvin (Na Fianna — captain)

13. Paris McCarthy (Castleisland Desmonds), 14. Danielle O’Leary (Rathmore), 15. Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (Corca Dhuibhne)

Subs

19. Niamh Ní Chonchúir (Corca Dhuibhne) for Niamh Carmody (45)

22. Erica McGlynn (Fossa) for Paris McCarthy (46)

17. Aoife Dillane (Austin Stacks) for Julie O’Sullivan (52)

24. Mary O’Connell (Na Gaeil) for Aishling O’Connell (57)

Referee: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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