'The Hunger Games' - Laois defeat Meath to claim Leinster U16 B title

Leinster U16 LGF B Championship Final

May 20th 2018
Meath v Laois

Venue: Ballymore-Eustace GAA Club

Half Time: Meath 1-1 Laois 1-5
Full Time: Meath 4-2 Laois 3-12

‘The Hunger Games’

Two teams came to win. Two teams wanted to win. Two teams put on a display of no quarter asked and none given. The defining difference was that Laois were the hungrier team. In soccer they call it the “second ball”, in rugby it’s called “the ruck” and in Gaelic we call it “dirty ball”. It’s that loose ball that gets under feet, squiggles away into no man-women’s land. It’s the player that eats up that space and fights for that ball that ultimately goes home with the loaf.

 

The picturesque setting of Ballymore Eustace GAA ground, Wicklow Hills in the background, Blessington Lakes to our rear, witnessed a battle of the ages for those 16 year old young women. No one wanted to lose. A hard pitch, slightly bumpy, was always going to challenge the combatants. The first half was punctuated with the shrill blast of the referees whistle. It was a clean match but such was the intensity that both sides brought to the ground that the challenges were intense. Nothing dirty, sheer honesty on display from both sides even though the stand was heaving with enthusiastic supporters, I marvel at the composure of the girls on the pitch.

 

Laois settled first and clever interplay between Grace Salmon and Lisa Keane told Phil Fay’s girls that they may be in for a busy afternoon. Often I wonder whether it’s the crowd that drives on the players on the pitch or the players that inspire the crowd? Being a player in close proximity to the sideline means that your head needs to filter out the support but on the other hand you also need that encouragement. I digress. The ratio of attack was 3:1 in favor of Laois and the half time score reflected that. Six scores against two. It’s at times like this you thank good you are not the manger or his back room team. You see your teams honesty and work ethic but you also see the opposition perhaps hold an ace in the sleeve.

 

Your ace is in track suit from injury. The loss of Emma Duggan cannot be underestimated but you go with the hand that you are dealt with. The second half started and if Laois thought that the Royal were going to lie down, they found out not so.  Meadbh Byrne burrowed her way through for a fine goal. This was followed by another Meath goal from Eimear Fay. Now the lead was pared back to two points. Anything was possible but ten minutes into the second half Meath shipped a yellow card. We know from the rugby that the sin bin ten costs. And though The Royal held out for six of those ten, they finally conceded 1-3 before Meath got their player back.

 

That gave the Laois team the breathing space they needed. They say goals win games but the lack of points loses games. Meath scored four, Laois three. However the point differential was 12 to 2. A ten point difference. Laois were economical in the spine positions, the Royal girls worked to the last but when momentum shifts on you, when you are doing your best and the stand is heaving, the brain working flat out; often we forget that our girls are sixteen year olds. I salute both sides. Three yellow cards brandished, two to Laois one to Meath is not an indication of a dirty match. It’s an indication of intensity coupled with a shower landing on a firm pitch.

 

Meath never gave up. Neither did Laois. The final whistle heralded the unbridled glee of the Laois ladies and the utter dejection of the Royalettes. No need for head hanging. They gave their all, nothing was left on the pitch. And sometimes, you lose to the better side. The girls are at an age that having stayed until now, there is nothing to stop them moving on and upwards. The management team of Phil Fay, Greg Carry, Alan Browne, Jen McGrath and Ann Donnelly should be thanked. They leave the girls and this team in a good place. It’s up to the girls themselves now to set challenges, define new goals.

 

In a game where the collective was the dominant feature, it wouldn’t be fair to single out individuals. Each and every girl gave their all. Captain Aisling McCabe worked tirelessly. Meadbh Byrne brought an urgency to a well marshalled forward line but each and every girl leaves Ballymore with head held high. Well done Laois, a merited win. For the Royals, there will be other days. Finally my thanks to the Leinster Council who allowed me on the pitch to take a team photo of our Meath girls. I didn’t see our regular camera person there. In getting this great ladies game out into the wider Irish community all courtesies are appreciated and my thanks for that.

Meath: Clara McCanna, Orla  Byrne, Ali Sherlock, Aoibhe Monaghan; Saoirse O Kane, Aisling McCabe capt, Orla Finnegan, Aoife Delaney & Ellen Grant; Keri Martin,  Caragh  Monaghan, Eimear Fay; Louise Coyne, Mollie Brown, Alannah Boland.

Subs: Meadbh Byrne, Aideen Jones, Emma Regan, Zoe Kirwin, Aoibhin Bracken.

Scorers: Meadbh Byrne 1-1, Louise Coyne 1-0, Eimear Fay 1-0, Zoe Kirwin 1-0, Mollie Browne.

Referee: Ciaran Groome

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