Meath Dig Deep to Clinch Model Victory

Good things come to those who wait. In today’s U14 Leinster Final, Meath’s patience, determination and drive were rewarded with the 2016 Leinster B Championship title in a sun drenched Geraldine Park in Athy. They did not have it all their own way however as a strong Wexford outfit led throughout and a 60th minute free from Emma Duggan forced extra time where Meath emerged triumphant.

Celebrations 2

Wexford seized possession from the throw in and were first on the scoreboard, finding the back of the net in the opening minute. Emma Duggan split the posts in the second minute and again in the fifth minute to leave a point between the sides. Eimear Gabbett pointed on 6 mins to edge Wexford two points in front once more. The full back line of Orla Conlon, Ali Sherlock and Tegan Gordon was kept busy but they stood strong to the waves of Wexford attack with Mollie Browne, the industrious Tia Nulty and Caoimhe McPeake also performing well in the half back line. With Aisling McCabe, driving Meath forward, Meath were unlucky not to restore parity as Alice McGrath’s effort was well saved by the Wexford keeper, Alibeth Curran. Olivia Gore’s attacking prowess was rewarded on 13 mins when she split the posts, Duggan delivering Gore with a timely pass.

Wexford were unlucky not to have a second goal as Cathryn Dempsey’s powerful effort flashed across the Royal net. A long range effort from Tia Nulty on the 17th minute restored parity, the sides level; 0-04 to 1-01. Wexford’s response was almost immediate, Dempsey fisting over a point on 19 minutes, after the initial attack was punched away by Meath keeper Aoibhean Corcoran. The action was end to end with Gore’s terrific run halted by a wonderful block just before the Wexford 21 yard line. A brace of scores from Wexford pushed the side from the sunny south east further in front before a 24 minute goal from Kate Foley rocked the Royal net. Ali Sherlock and Orla Conlon combined beautifully to prevent a further score but it wasn’t just enough as Sophie Boxwell split the posts on 27 mins. Meath were to have the final say in the half, Aideen Jones splitting the posts but it was far from the performance many in the stands were expecting, as Meath went into half time in five point arrears.

Half Time; Meath 0-05, Wexford 2-04.

Substitute Ellen Grant replaced Aoibhín Bracken at half time, and what a performance the St. Pats player had. Her impact was immediate despite Dempsey pointing on 33 mins to stretch Wexford’s lead to six. St. Colmcilles duo Alannah Boland and Keri Martin were also substituted on as Meath sought to instil some fire into the Meath forward line. What manager Phil Fay got, was not a fire but a blaze as they instilled pace and strength to the Meath attack. Jones added her second point of the contest on 39 mins while Boland got the first of three points a minute later. The tide was slowly turning in Meath’s favour as Ali Sherlock and Mollie Browne both pushed the Royals on. Keri Martin reduced Meath’s deficit to three on 46 mins while Boland reduced the gap to two on 48 mins. Martin reduced the gap to a single score on 50 mins and they could have levelled matters but for missed opportunities from the dead ball. With the majority of the pressure on the Wexford backline, once they got a chance to break, they did so with speed, the woodwork came to Meath’s rescue, as a certain goal chance ricocheted off the upright. A serious injury to Wexford defender Cora Rowe halted play as an ambulance was called and with the momentum very much with the Royals, the break was needed given the humidity. On the resumption, Wexford held a single point lead and stretched it to two on 57 mins through the boot of Sophie Boxwell. Meath’s reply was instant, Keri Martin grabbed her third point on 59 mins. As the ball went back into midfield, Ali Sherlock brought the ball back into the danger area and was fouled about 25 yards out on the left hand side. Meath knew they needed a score to level the game with time up. They needn’t have worried, Emma Duggan coolly slotting the ball over to bring the game to extra time, much to the joy of the Royals supporters in the stands.

Full Time; Meath 0-12, Wexford 2-06.

Extra time was a tight and tense affair with just a single score for either side in the opening ten minutes. Boland was on target for Meath, the Cilles player’s third score since coming on in the second half. Wexford were not giving in and they pointed to level matters once again through Boxwell. As the half time break came, thoughts of the game going to a replay were prevalent on the sidelines. With just ten minutes remaining, either side were well within reach of the Leinster title. It was the Royals however who opened fire in the second half, Olivia Gore was re-introduced and the Rathkenny player sent the Royals ahead on 12 mins. Jones pointed her third score of the afternoon to massive cheers from the sideline to put Meath two ahead for the first time in the game. Meath were patient now with their build up, Aisling McCabe playing a captain’s role in maintaining possession and feeding the forward line with Keri Martin, Alannah Boland and Emma Duggan all piling huge pressure on the Wexford defence. An Orla Finnegan effort was parried away by the Wexford netminder before Alannah Boland’s 16th minute strike found the back of Curran’s net to send the Royals into safety and a five point lead. Duggan added a late point to put the icing on the cake as referee Derek McKittrick finally blew the full time whistle.

Full Time (AET); Meath 1-16, Wexford 2-07.

This was a tremendously hardworking performance from both sets of footballers. Wexford and Meath can both be very proud of their efforts. Neither side gave up and with the sunshine and humidity and eighty minutes of tough football, this is a huge achievement in itself. Winners on the day were the Royals and their patience was well rewarded. The impact of the second half substitutions was immense and this surely gives the Meath management a headache with the All Ireland Semi-Final just two weeks away. Leinster Ladies Secretary, Cathal Friel presented the ‘Player of the Match’ accolade to St. Colmcilles footballer, Alannah Boland, her 1-03 haul proving crucial as she chased and harried the opposition. Friel congratulated both teams on a terrific performance before presenting the trophy to Meath’s U14 Captain, Aisling McCabe. Meath Ladies would like to send speedy well wishes to Wexford defender Cora Rowe who was forced off the field with injury this afternoon.

Congratulations on a wonderful performance ladies! Meath U14s will now take on Tyrone in the All Ireland ‘B’ Semi Final on the weekend of the 12th June. Tyrone overcame Down in the Ulster B final  on a 4-17 to 2-06 scoreline so Meath will know they have it all to do if they are to secure a place in the Final. For now however, they will enjoy the knowledge that they are Leinster Champions!

Meath Team & Scorers: Aoibheann Corcoran, Orla Conlon, Ali Sherlock, Tegan Gordon, Tia Nulty, Mollie Browne, Caoimhe McPeake, Aoibhin Bracken, Aisling McCabe (C), Olivia Gore (0-02), Maebhdh Byrne, Eimear Fay, Alice McGrath, Emma Duggan (0-04, 1f), Aideen Jones (0-03).

Subs: Ellen Grant for Bracken (HT), Keri Martin for Gore (38 mins), Alannah Boland for Byrne (38 mins), Orla Finnegan for McGrath (54 mins), Olivia Gore for Fay (Extra Time – 64 mins), Lauren Donnelly for Sherlock (Extra time – 77 mins), Karen McNulty, Holly Kealy, Saoirse O’Kane, Lauren McCarthy, Maeve Reilly, Rebecca King, Caoimhe Leddy, Orla Hayes, Katie Carragher, Meghan Corish, Grace Gavigan, Niamh Mulvihill, Caragh Monaghan, Zoe Matthews, Aoibhe Monaghan.

Wexford: Alibeth Curran, Cora Rowe, Ciara Walsh, Katie Kehoe, Shauna Hackett, Loren Doyle, Lorna Fortune, Juliet Rockford, Susan Boyle, Eadaoin Kent, Sophie Boxwell, Rachel Power, Kate Foley, Cathryn Dempsey, Michelle Kinsella.

Referee: Derek McKittrick (Dublin).

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