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'One thing that helped us to push on this year was remembering where we came from'

Orlagh Lally and Meath face rivals Dublin in tomorrow’s Leinster final.

Launching the TG4 All-Ireland championship, Orlagh Lally poses for a portrait with the Brendan Martin cup at the Knowth megalithic passage-tomb site in County Meath.
Launching the TG4 All-Ireland championship, Orlagh Lally poses for a portrait with the Brendan Martin cup at the Knowth megalithic passage-tomb site in County Meath.
Image: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

NO LONGER THE hunters, now very much the hunted.

It’s a completely different story wearing the crown, and being chased.

As Meath know all too well at this stage. But it’s been a case of so far, so good, as the history-making All-Ireland senior champions have backed up their stunning 2021 success.

Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan are the two who grab most of the headlines, but there’s no doubting the fact that Orlagh Lally is one of the Royals’ key players. The 20-year-old has been an engine in midfield for Eamonn Murray’s giant-killers, teak-tough on defensive duty while also popping up with crucial scores.

‘The hunted’ is a role she and her team-mates are certainly adjusting to, their time in the doldrums well documented at this stage before their rise through the ranks.

“Mentality is a huge thing in the game today,” she says at the TG4 All-Ireland ladies football championship launch.

“We’ve kept to ourselves and kept looking at ourselves. One thing that helped us to push on this year was remembering where we came from. We were at the bottom of the table. We had to dig ourselves out of a really bad time in Meath for ladies football. Any time we start to find it tough we remember where we came from, and I think that journey has helped us to get to where we are today.”

That’s in a Leinster senior final, as reigning All-Ireland and Division 1 league champions, having lifted the coveted titles in their first seasons back in both top-flights.

The opposition for Saturday’s Croke Park double-header is Dublin, a team they have reignited a fierce rivalry with in a short space of time. Meath, of course, ended the Sky Blues’ Drive for Five last Septemner, while it’s one narrow win a-piece so far in 2022.

“It’s great to have the Leinster Championship back, we didn’t have it last year,” Lally nods. “We just want to build on the league, keep the heads down and work hard.

“There’s always a bit of a buzz when you hear Meath and Dublin are playing,” the Clann na nGael star adds with a smile. “It’s great to be playing the top teams, like them, and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“[The Leinster senior championship] means a lot. We’ve done the league and we’ve won the All-Ireland. This is another thing to challenge ourselves on and we want to be able to rise up the challenge. You don’t want to look too far ahead and you just want to take each game as it comes. We’ll look forward to this Saturday, and hopefully getting a Leinster title to our name.”

As hungry and wanting to improve as ever, Lally and Co. are determined to prove the notion that Mick Bohan’s side were caught on the hop in last year’s championship final wrong.

“We have to prove that this year by coming out and improving ourselves and our performance. Everyone will look in at us and have their own opinions. We want to keep the focus on ourselves and work on our own game. So we had to close our eyes to what everyone was saying outside our camp. We got there in the end, so that was the main thing.”

orlagh-lally Lally on the ball in last year's All-Ireland final. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

While Lally is fully-focused on all things Meath at the minute, she admits that the prospect of playing in the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] is tempting.

Wall is set for a move to North Melbourne sooner rather than later, and while Duggan confirmed earlier this week that she would not be joining her Down Under, the lure certainly remains. It’s the same story for Lally.

“It’s definitely something that is there. It’s an opportunity and timing is the big thing. If you’re able to go, and you felt like it was right to go you could. Meath are doing well at the minute and that’s not going to last forever so you want to be able to take that opportunity while you have it.”

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Returning to more pressing matters on these shores, Lally agrees with the ever-growing calls for the need for physicality in the women’s game.

“Yeah, and I think it’s going that way,” she nods. “There’s a lot more focus on S&C. Women are getting stronger. It’s hard to always have it perfect with referees. Every referee will differ. It’s just about trying to get on the same play and have the same views.

“The standard and level is constantly increasing, and the physicality is as well. The S&C has been upped too, so I can definitely see it heading in that direction. Gradually I think a bit more physicality will come into the game.”

Dublin boss Mick Bohan has long been beating the drum, hitting out at the rule which states “there shall be no deliberate bodily contact,” in particular, this week.

Another big talking point of late has been facilities. Kerry star Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh spoke out about her team’s limited access to the Kingdom’s Centre of Excellence last week, but Lally says there are no major issues in the Royal county.

“We are [treated well]. When you’re doing well everyone wants to pitch in and give a hand. You can see the difference in the ladies, and in the equality, and everything like that. There’s room for improvement but we’re getting there, slowly but surely. I read a few articles about Kerry having problems. It’s getting better, but we could still have more.”

Likewise, expenses are “improving,” particularly after the GPA merger. “We got expenses last year for travelling. It’s a huge help so hopefully it will keep going that way.”

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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