Dublin hold out against Neighbours

Any game where Meath and Dublin lock horns is sure to be a breathless encounter, and the Senior Ladies teams from Meath and Dublin on Sunday proved no exception in their TESCO HomeGrown National Football League. Goals in either half paved way for a slim Dublin win, but they were made work for every one of their three points. Indeed Meath were leading by two at half time, but a stronger second half performance by the team from the Capital limited Meath’s chances to just three scores to ensure victory.

As a result of the poor weather conditions the game was moved to an astro surface in the fine facilities of St. Brigid’s GAA, an historic move for the Meath ladies, who before today, had never played a competitive game on the astro surface. Both teams adapted to the change of surface without difficulty and served up a treat for the large group of supporters that had gathered.

The Royals fielded with six debutantes and they acquitted themselves superbly. Missing Fiona Mahon through illness, the Royals were also without Shauna Bennett and Stephanie Byrne (injured). Indeed, it was the Royal County that started the better, with Emma Troy, Vivienne McCormack and, new to the panel, Máire O’Shaughnessy all impressing early on. It was Geraldine Doherty’s first match back from injury, and the St. Ultans player got Meath on to the scoreboard with a well taken point in the 12th minute. Full forward Bridgetta Lynch doubled Meath’s lead two minutes later with a curling shot that split the posts almost effortlessly. Super defensive work from Aedin Murray and another new player to the panel Niamh Lister ensured Meath kept the pressure on the Dubs. Dublin’s first ’45 came from a super save from Meath’s goalkeeper, Irene Munnelly after Sinead Aherne was fouled 25 yards out. Indeed Munnelly was to the forefront on many occasions throughout the game and ensured Meath stayed in touch with their Dublin counterparts. Sinead Coyle pointed on 17 mins to boost the Royals’ advantage to three points. A minute later Katie O’Brien added Meath’s fourth with the first converted free of the game, after referee Pat Kehoe deemed Máire O’Shaughnessy to be fouled 20 yards out from goal.

Counter attack appeared to be the order of the day as a Dublin attack was broken down by Murray and the ball moved its way down the pitch to Bridgetta Lynch who forced Dublin All Star goalkeeper Cliodhna O’Connor into making an incredible save on 20 mins.

Dublin were still waiting patiently for their first score of the game, and O’Brien added to their woes when she converted a free on 21 mins to leave the score Meath 0-05, Dublin no score. This seemed to awaken the Dubs from their slumber and Lyndsay Davey pointed on 22 mins, but this was immediately cancelled out on 23 mins by Geraldine Doherty. Siobhan Woods doubled Dublin’s tally on 25 mins and despite two further super saves by Irene Munnelly, Dublin sneaked in for a goal through substitute Lauren Ebbs after 27 mins of play. The ball had been saved by Munnelly and rebounded off the upright, but Ebbs was in just the right spot to tap home from a short distance. A further Meath attack landed into O’Connor’s waiting arms however Doherty and Katie O’Brien combined to give Lynch just the right pass which gave Meath their seventh point of the contest right on half time. When Pat Kehoe blew his whistle Meath were ahead by two, Meath 0-07 to Dublin’s 1-02.

The second half saw Meath playing against a stiffer breeze than the first half. Amy McGuinness got Dublin within a point when she converted on 32 mins. Again Munnelly was called into action and saved once more on the restart. O’Shaughnessy was in determined form and surely insured her place on the team in next week’s game against Cork. A terrific block by O’Brien allowed Vivienne McCormack in to attack but her effort went wide of the post. The sides were level for the first time on 40 mins when Ebbs pointed. The teams traded scores on 44 and 45 mins respectively. O’Brien converted her third free of the contest while McGuinness converted a free of her own a minute later. Again both goalkeepers were called to the fore and neither disappointed. Munnelly burst out from goals to act as a further defender while O’Connor got her fingertips to another shot. A free given on 50 mins after a foul on Katie O’Brien, was taken short by O’Brien to Doherty who in turn found O’Brien again. O’Brien found McCormack in space and McCormack pointed with vengeance. Meath had their noses in front with just 8 or 9 mins left on the clock. However, on the resumption Dublin showed what they can do with just a little space and in a swift counter attack Amy Ring buried the ball past Munnelly on 52 mins to put Dublin two points in front. For the first round of the National League in 2013, neither team wanted to give in. Dublin added to their lead on 57 mins courtesy of substitute Hannah Tyrrell and it all came too late when O’Brien converted her fourth free of the contest on 59 mins. The whistle blew and the final score had Dublin up by two, Meath 0-10, Dublin 2-06.

It was clear from the game that neither team wanted to concede defeat which will stand both teams in good stead for the coming season. Meath had a fabulous first half but a three point return in the second half will surely be looked at by joint managers Lar Wall and Martin Connolly. The heart and determination in this young Meath team will stand them in good stead as they regroup and plan their attack on their next opponents in the league, current All Ireland Champions, Cork, next Sunday 10th February, venue to be announced. Best for Meath today were Katie O’Brien, Irene Munnelly, Máire O’Shaughnessy, Aedin Murray, Vivienne McCormack and Bridgetta Lynch.

Meath Team and Scorers: Irene Munnelly, Niamh Lister, Aedin Murray, Orla Sheridan, Laura Bagnall, Máire O’Shaughnessy, Emma Troy, Sinead McCormack, Vivienne McCormack (0-01), Shauna Ennis, Sinead Coyle (0-01), Katie O’Brien (0-04, 4f), Geraldine Doherty (0-02), Bridgetta Lynch (0-02), Aine Bennett. Subs: Jenny Rispin for Bennett, Kate Byrne for Sinead McCormack, Aideen Guy for Bagnall, Colleen Jordan for Coyle, Tracy King for Kate Byrne.

Dublin: Cliodhna O’Connor, Rachel Byrne, Sinead Goldrick, Leah Caffrey, Laura McGahan, Niamh McEvoy, Fiona Hudson, Amy McGuinness (0-02, 1f), Noelle Healy, Siobhan Woods (0-01), Elaine Kelly, Amy Ring (1-00), Orlagh Egan, Sinead Deegan, Lyndsay Davey (0-01)

Dublin Subs: Lauren Ebbs (1-01) for Egan, Ciara Ruddy for McGahan, Hannah Tyrell (0-01) for Deegan, Natalia Hyland for McEvoy.

Referee: Pat Kehoe (Carlow)

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