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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Meath manager Eamonn Murray celebrating after the game.
# Royals Rule
'These are heroes for life. If they never kick another ball it doesn’t matter, they’ll never be forgotten'
Eamonn Murray steered Meath to an historic first All-Ireland senior title today.

ENTER MEATH MASTERMIND Eamonn Murray.

A first All-Ireland senior championship title win in their first year back in the top-flight.

Ending Dublin’s Drive for Five with an exceptional team performance.

And the magnificent rise up to this point.

The rolleroaster journey from hammerings at senior level, to a massive rebuilding job in the intermediate ranks; the two final defeats there, the third time lucky win last December, the rise through the league tiers; all the blood, sweat and tears along the way.

Over to the man behind it all to sum it up.

“I never questioned that they wouldn’t win,” he begins after the Royals’ 1-11 to 0-12 win over four-in-a-row champions.

“Not for one minute. We knew this year we’d win every game. We didn’t worry about All-Irelands; didn’t think about them. The [Division 2] league final against Kerry, we approached that the same as today’s game. They showed no sign of panic at any stage.

“We probably beat them at their own game a wee bit. These girls came on a lot with their physical strength. We needed all of that strength we had to beat them. They’re a class outfit. An unbelievable team. To be the best you have to beat the best. We certainly did that. I thought we were by far the best team.”

Murray was full of praise for his side and their trusty defensive, and then counter-attacking, system.

Dunboyne duo Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan were both highly influential in attack. Aoibhín Cleary, meanwhile, excelled in an ultra-organised defence which shut Dublin out, and ultimately won the game.

“We’ve been working on that for a few years and it’s really coming together now,” Cavan native Murray nodded.

“It’s very hard to score against us. I thought on our break we moved the ball very well. Never showed any sign of panic. Monica’s brilliant save. Of course we had a bit of luck, sure any team that wins gets luck. The lobbed goal, another bit of luck.

“We had a bit of luck all year. But it’s not all luck when you beat all these top teams. They’re a very special bunch of players. I wouldn’t expect anything different off them.

“We had plenty of tough days too. This is as high as it goes. Where do we go from here? I don’t know.”

Having cut the match into 15-minute periods, he said the message was always, ‘Stay in the game,’ with Duggan’s audacious seventh-minute goal and the early lead giving them the perfect platform to build from.

He hailed each and every one of his players — “a very special bunch to work with” — and his backroom team who “leave no stone unturned”.

Asked if he thinks his side can take over from Dublin and put a few All-Ireland senior titles together, he smiled:

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“I hope so. We need to forget about the bad days from now on and let’s worry about the future. I’m hearing all week about these bad times we had, those bad days are gone thank God. Let’s move on and start enjoying football, it’s nothing more than Meath deserve.

“We’re a very proud, big county, 7500 members is huge, there are very few other counties with that many members. This is great for all them young kids that look to these brilliant players

“They have heroes after today. And these are all heroes, and will be heroes for life, if they never kick another ball it doesn’t matter, they’ll never be forgotten. Never. They are going down in history now, thank God.”

And on making history? “It is special, but it’s nothing more than our county board and clubs and them deserve. It was Fergal Harney ringing me day and night to do the job, it’s a special night for him as well. I won’t take all the praise. Special day, it’s class.

“It’s a very special day, a day I’ll never forget.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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