Women’s All-Ireland final preview: Dublin hunting five-in-a-row

Eamonn Murray’s Meath team given little hope of producing the mother of all upsets

Dublin manager Mick Bohan has been able to restore the vastly experienced Sinead Goldrick to his starting team. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Dublin manager Mick Bohan has been able to restore the vastly experienced Sinead Goldrick to his starting team. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Dublin v Meath

Croke Park, Sunday 4.15pm (TG4)

“I presume they’ll be the hottest favourites of all time,” said Eamonn Murray earlier this week when asked what chance his Meath team, who have reached their first ever senior All Ireland final, had of beating a Dublin side hunting a five-in-a-row.

True enough, the nation’s turf accountants have offered less than generous odds of 10-1 for Dublin to see off their Leinster rivals, Murray’s charges given little hope of producing the mother of all upsets.

But ‘against all odds’ could be the motto for Meath’s championship run this year, their first at senior level since 2016. Having won promotion to Division 1 of the league by beating Kerry in June’s Division 2 final, they opened their championship campaign by running Cork close in Birr, losing by just two points.

They haven’t looked back since, beating Tipperary, last year’s semi-finalists Armagh and then Cork in the semi-finals after a remarkable come-back that saw them score two goals in the dying moments to force the game into extra-time.

“Somebody told me we were 1000-1 with one minute 40 seconds to go,” said captain Shauna Ennis, “so to turn those odds around was really something else.”

Dublin, though, will be the ultimate challenge, Mick Bohan’s team the dominant force in women’s football since they last lost a championship game, the 2016 All-Ireland final - that’s 25 successive victories.

Bohan has been able to restore the vastly experienced Sinead Goldrick, Niamh Collins and Carla Rowe to his starting line-up, with Aoife Kane, Siobhan McGrath and Caoimhe O’Connor dropping to the bench. Goldrick, with just the seven All Stars to her name, came on as a substitute in the semi-final against Mayo, her first appearance for her county since sustaining a severe hamstring injury six months before.

Hannah Tyrrell, meanwhile, starts her first ever senior All-Ireland final having returned to the Dublin set-up in May following her seven year international rugby career. A prolific addition she has been too to what was already a lethal Dublin attack, Meath’s ability, or otherwise, to keep them at bay the likely determiner of their fortunes.

But they have their own set of free-scoring forwards, notably Vikki Wall, Emma Duggan and Stacey Grimes, all of them included in an unchanged line-up, and a powerful, pacey midfield pairing in Máire O’Shaughnessy and Orlagh Lally. Their battle with Dublin’s Jennifer Dunne and Lauren Magee will, inevitably, be key.

Having only ever met Cork, Mayo, Galway and Tyrone in their 11 previous All-Ireland finals, Meath will be an unfamiliar challenge for Dublin, the teams not having played each other competitively for five years.

Whether or not Meath can put that unfamiliarity to good use and create probably the game’s greatest ever upset, or whether Dublin will seal their five-in-a-row, well, the odds firmly favour the latter outcome. Not that Eamonn Murray’s charges have had much respect for odds this year.

Dublin (v Meath): C Trant; M Byrne, N Collins, L Caffrey; S Goldrick, O Carey, O Nolan; J Dunne, L Magee; H Tyrrell, L Davey, C Rowe; S Aherne (capt), N Hetherton, S Killeen.

Meath (v Dublin): M McGuirk; E Troy, M.K. Lynch, K Newe; A Leahy, A Cleary, S Ennis (capt); O Lally, M O’Shaughnessy; O Byrne, S Grimes, N O’Sullivan; V Wall, E Duggan, B Lynch.

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