Mighty Meath dethrone Dublin to secure a maiden All-Ireland title

Defending champions fall short in pursuit of five-in-a-row as Royal County make history

Shauna Ennis lifts the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time in Meath’s history. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Shauna Ennis lifts the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time in Meath’s history. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Meath 1-11 Dublin 0-12

Come all you royal champions.

Defying the odds and expectations and everything else in between Meath have won their first senior women’s All-Ireland football title at their first attempt, denying Dublin a fifth on the trot in the process and shaking the old ground at Croke Park in a way that hasn’t been felt in quite a while.

In a final for the ages and after a duly frantic climax, Meath held on for the two-point win after Dublin threw all their experience at them in an attempt to draw level. Instead Meath had taken control from the throw-in, both teams making it a breathtaking contest that never let up and produced one remarkable score after the other.

It was a tactical masterclass by Meath manager Eamonn Murray, the deadly high press on the Dublin kick-outs working wonders and particularly in the first-half, during which Meath built a five-point cushion that was enough to see them home.

Meath celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup after their historic win over Dublin. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Meath celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup after their historic win over Dublin. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Murray had guided the county to a first senior women’s final, having won the intermediate title only last December, and in truth Dublin were raging favourites to make it five in a row and a sixth title in all. Meath ignored that script and all the headlines that came with it, captain Shauna Ennis lifting the Brendan Martin cup for the first time in the history of Royal County.

They performed with a maturity and patience and fearlessness beyond all their experience, delivering Dublin their first defeat after a winning streak of 25 games going back to their last defeat in the 2016 final.

Much of the Meath game was built around their fantastic attacking force and pursuit of Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan, passes all over the field sticking like darts to the board, and utterly dogged defending.

It took Meath 15 minutes to produce the first score in the second-half, only that didn’t matter. Two more points from Duggan and Niamh O’Sullivan was enough to hold on to the moment in history and time.

Dublin, as champions do, got it back to a two-point game with two minutes to go thanks to the sheer persistence of Hannah Tyrrell, who finished with 0-7, but it was simply too little too late.

Hannah Tyrrell scores a point under pressure during Dublin’s win over Meath. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Hannah Tyrrell scores a point under pressure during Dublin’s win over Meath. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Few could have imagined Meath would be up on the champions 1-8 to 0-6 at half-time. That’s because Meath hit the ground sprinting, Wall winning the throw-in and racing down at goal to win a free - duly converted by Stacey Grimes. Game on.

That set the tone and the trend, Meath being relentless in the opening quarter. Dublin captain Sinead Aherne leveled it on three minutes, before Meath set off again, O’Sullivan scoring their first from play.

On six minutes Duggan produced a moment of football magic: the 19-year-old from Dunboyne, who got her Leaving Cert results last week, had a shot at goal that drifted just wide. From the Dublin kick-out, aimed at Hannah Tyrrell, she made a brilliant interception and with that promptly chipped the ball to Ciara Trant who was caught just off her line and fell back helplessly as the ball dropped into the net.

That spurred Meath even more, Emma Troy charging up from corner back to score twice from play, O’Sullivan added a second, with another free too for Grimes.

Dublin looked and were rattled, struggling for sure with Meath’s defensive set up and moreso their ability to counter-attack. On 19 minutes Tyrrell did have one clear shot at goal only for Monica McGuirk to make a brilliantly confident save.

Niamh O’Sullivan celebrates scoring a point for Meath during their historic win over Dublin. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Niamh O’Sullivan celebrates scoring a point for Meath during their historic win over Dublin. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Meath’s ability to turnover the ball was ceaseless. They hit three points in a row in the closing 10 minutes of the half, before Tyrrell hit one back from play. Just before the break Duggan worked her teenage wonder with a score from play, leaving Meath with that five point cushion at the break.

Meath had already created one of the lasting tales of this championship, the upstart and breakthrough, but saved best until last, taking down the champions to write their own chapter in women’s football history.

MEATH: M McGuirk; E Troy (0-2), M.K. Lynch, K Newe; A Leahy, A Cleary, S Ennis (capt); O Lally, M O’Shaughnessy; O Byrne, S Grimes (0-3, two frees), N O’Sullivan (0-3); V Wall, E Duggan (1-2), B Lynch (0-1). Subs: M Thynne for Lynch, N Gallogly for Ennis (both 45 mins), E White for O’Sullivan (59 mins), S Melia for Lally (60 mins).

DUBLIN: C Trant; M Byrne (0-1), N Collins, L Caffrey; S Goldrick, S McGrath, O Nolan; J Dunne, L Magee; H Tyrrell (0-7, three frees), L Davey (0-1), C Rowe (0-1); S Aherne (capt) (0-1), N Hetherton, S Killeen. Subs: C O’Connor for Hetherton (28 mins), O Carey for McGrath, N McEvoy for Killeen (both half time), K Sullivan (0-1) for Nolan (45 mins), A Kane for Davey (55 mins).

Referee: Brendan Rice (Down).

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