By Kevin Egan
A stunning display of shooting from Stacey Grimes at one end of the field a magnificent diving save from Monica McGuirk at the other, were the key factors in a dramatic win for Meath over Clare in the TG4 Ladies Intermediate Championship on Saturday.
After coming through what was deemed to be the 'group of death' featuring Kildare, Wexford and Down, Clare were one of the fancied sides coming into the knockout stages of this championship but they never got their game going today, with full-forward Niamh O'Dea scoring 1-8, and carrying a disproportionate share of the scoring burden in their attack.
Grimes' tally of 0-9 made up a large share of Meath's scores as well but overall their attacking play was far more cohesive, with incisive runs and support play creating many of those scores from dead balls.
Both sides struggled to get to grips with the strong diagonal breeze in the early stages, with Fiona O'Neill's goal the solitary score out of the first seven scoring attempts. O'Dea had been off the mark with a couple of early attempts but she finally settled into the game with some good scores into that wind, before putting the Munster county in front with a penalty in the 15th minute, awarded for a push on Róisín Looney.
Meath rallied well and a stunning solo goal from Aoibhín Cleary, sent to the net via a deflection after a 30-metre run, edged the Royals back in front. However their 2-4 to 1-5 interval lead seemed like an inadequate cushion as they turned to face the elements.
Instead they kept it tight and used their pace when in possession, while their half back line of Aoibhín Cleary, Megan Thynne and Shauna Ennis picked up a lot of breaking ball and left the Clare forwards starved of supply.
Clare rallied coming into injury time and trailed by three points when Laurie Ryan set up Fidelma Marrinan just inside the large square, but the corner forward's low shot was brilliant saved by McGuirk, leaving Grimes to complete the scoring with her ninth point of the afternoon.
Scorers - Meath: S Grimes 0-9 (0-5f), A Cleary 1-1, F O'Neill 1-0, N O'Sullivan 0-1.
Clare: N O'Dea 1-8 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), F Marrinan 0-2.
Meath: M McGuirk; K Newe, O Duff, O Lally; M Thynne, S Ennis, A Cleary; M O'Shaughnessy, K Byrne; A Leahy, N O'Sullivan, S Grimes; M Farrelly, V Wall, F O'Neill.
Subs: S Wall for Leahy (42), O Byrne for O'Neill (56).
Clare: G Lynch; S Ní Chonaill, E O'Gorman, G Harvey; R Considine, L Woods, C O'Leary; C Harvey, R Looney; E Keane, L Ryan, E O'Connor; T Kelly, N O'Dea, F Marrinan.
Subs: N Carroll for Keane (35), C Callinan for Kelly (36), L Egan for O'Leary (44), C Hester for O'Connor (50), S Bohannon for N Carroll (58), Á Kelly for Harvey (62).
Referee: John Gallagher (Dublin).