Ladies: Royal rock Kingdom to reach final

April 17, 2011

Meath's Vivienne McCormack
Meath 1-11
Kerry 0-11

Meath senior ladies rocked the Kingdom with a goal in the 24th minute of the Bord Gais Energy National Ladies Football League semi final and it was the goal that was to send Meath into the League final against Dublin and earn the Royals' promotion to Division One football for 2012. At half time, Meath were ahead by a brace of points (1-04 to 0-05) but went down by four points early in the second half to make for a remarkable comeback to be three points ahead at the final whistle.

Nothing worth doing ever comes easy, and the Meath senior ladies were made work hard for this victory. With beautiful weather, both teams took to the field, however the game was delayed for almost twenty minutes due to a funeral in the Church across the road from the pitch. When the game did begin, Meath got out of the traps early with a first point for Elaine Duffy in the opening minute. Kerry levelled matters a moment later courtesy of Louise Galvin and the opening scores suggested that a tough game of football lay ahead. The teams traded scores again on the fourth and sixth minutes - Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh converted a free for Kerry while at the other end Meath brought it to a draw once more courtesy of Katie O'Brien, whose surging runs caused Kerry all sorts of problems. Despite strong defending from Grainne Nulty and Aedin Murray, Kerry went two ahead - first in the 9th min courtesy of Linda Cronin and then in the 15th min courtesy of Patrice Dennehy. Luckily for Meath, Kerry hit some wides which allowed the Royals some breathing space. Fiona Mahon brought the gap to a minimum on 17 mins when she converted a free after Elaine Duffy was fouled.

Cronin brought the gap back to two when she pointed on 19 mins. Meath's defensive pressure continued to put Kerry off as more wides resulted. On 22 mins Elaine Duffy was once again fouled - the resulting free was knocked out for a 45', taken quickly and brought in via Nulty and Shauna Bennett. Bennett found Vivienne McCormack in a tiny amount of space, and the Clann na nGael player rattled the back of the net. It lifted the Meath team and the supporters who had made the long journey to Cahir to the game. There was just enough time for Duffy to convert a further free and point her second of the afternoon on 30 mins when the half time whistle blew. The game hinged on a two point advantage to the Royals - Meath 1-04, Kerry 0-05.

The second half started briskly, with the game played at a high tempo on both sides. Both teams had shown tremendous support for each other in the opening half, but it was Kerry that began the half the stronger, sending over four unanswered points in the space of five minutes. Ni Mhuircheartaigh proved why she is one of the game's most promising young players when she kicked two long range points in the 35th (a free) and 36th minutes respectively. With Kerry tails up, Meath needed to up their game, and while Meath teams of the last few years may have crumbled, this year they stood up to fight. Every ball, every tackle, every sprint was done with 100% effort and it was the Kingdom who couldn't cope with Meath's surge. Mary Sheridan brought the defecit back to one point on 39 points and despite Kerry tagging on another two points on 40 and 43 mins respectively, the Royals knew they were not out of this match yet. The masterstroke came in the 41st min when Geraldine Doherty was substituted for goal-scorer Vivienne McCormack and positional switches on the field saw Grainne Nulty go into full forward.

From here, Katie O'Brien pointed in the 45th min and the scores just kept coming. Nulty pointed on 47 mins to be just a point behind, and while Geraldine Doherty put the ball wide a moment later, Meath drew level terms with Kerry courtesy of Katie O'Brien who split the posts for her third of the contest. With the defence winning everything now, Meath were on the attack. Jenny Rispin was fouled and the resulting free was duly converted by Duffy on 51 mins to put the Royals ahead for the first time since the opening minute of the game. Kerry just could not get past the Meath midfield as tackle after tackle went in. Bridgetta Lynch and Aedin Murray were superb in the second half and this kept the pressure on the Kerry defence which eventually showed signs of cracking. Meath took full advantage of this and Mary Sheridan pointed on 54 mins.

With five mins left, Meath were two points up and anxiously waiting for the full time whistle. Attempts to run down the clock were made, but Kerry were not going to lie down. They made one run at the Meath defence, and only for the superb goal skills of Irene Munnelly who pushed the ball round the post, Meath would have been in trouble. When the 45' was taken, Meath won back possession and there was just enough time for Duffy to add insult to injury to Kerry and put three points between the teams on 58 mins.

In the end, Meath hung on for a superb three point victory - 1-11 to 0-11. Victory today secures promotion to Division One football in next year's league, but Meath aren't done yet. Promotion will seem all the sweeter if it is gotten as victors of the League outright. However, a tougher test lies ahead - current All Ireland Champs, Dublin. With Dublin also the opposition in the Leinster Championship semi final - the summer is now starting to heat up for the Royal team!

It would be too difficult to pick out the best for Meath today - one through fifteen were outstanding. They chased and harried the opposition, gave them no time to think and broke down wave after wave of Kerry attack. Aedin Murray and Eileen Rahill were outstanding for the Royals, and Bridgetta Lynch's second half performance is a credit to her and her club, Oldcastle. Mary Sheridan was inspirational and the team was led solidly by Grainne Nulty from start to finish. All 28 members of the panel have played their part in this year's League, and given the performance today, one has a feeling that it will be a long summer for the Royal County!!

Meath Team & Scorers: Irene Munnelly, Orla Sheridan, Aedin Murray, Louise McKeever, Shauna Bennett, Kellie Allen, Bridgetta Lynch, Katie O'Brien (0-03), Grainne Nulty (0-01), Eileen Rahill, Fiona Mahon (0-01), Elaine Duffy(0-04), Jenny Rispin, Mary Sheridan (0-02), Vivienne McCormack(1-00).

Subs: Caitriona O'Shaughnessy for Rahill (34 mins), Geraldine Doherty for McCormack (41 mins). Not used; Orlagh McLaughlin, Tara Ryan, Maria Kealy, Roisin Nulty, Samantha Monaghan, Adele Carolan, Ashley Leavy, Philomena Sheridan, Eve Wardick, Stephanie Byrne, Cliona Murray.

Referee: Gavin Corrigan (Down)

Next weekend may see the arrival of the Easter bunny, but underage Royal ladies supporters will be hoping for a bumper weekend as all three teams are out in competition. The u14s play Longford at home while the u16s are away to Laois - both games in the round robin of their respective Leinster Championships. The minors will face a difficult assignment against Wexford in their Leinster Championship semi final on Easter Monday. Having defeated Laois in the preliminary round of the Championship, expectations will be high that the Minor Ladies can progress to the Leinster Championship final. With Kellie Allen captaining the side, Meath are sure to be in with a fighting chance.

The Meath Ladies County Board would like to congratulate Scoil Mhuire, Trim on making the Junior B Schools All Ireland Final only one year after contesting the 'C' Final. The County Board would also like to warmly congratulate St. Josephs, Mercy in Navan on their victory in the All Ireland Junior C Schools final over Presentation College, Athenry on Saturday and to goalkeeper Sarah Powderly on her winning the Player of the Match award.

Fixtures for the above three games to be confirmed this week.

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