Emma Duggan relishing hot rivalry with Dublin
By John Harrington
The battle of will and skill between the Meath and Dublin ladies football teams is quickly turning into one of the great rivalries in Irish sport right now.
Since shocking red-hot favourites Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland Final, Meath have proven that result was no fluke.
They lost by a single point when the teams met in the Lidl National Football League last March, and then beat Dublin by the same narrow margin in the round-robin phase of the Leinster Football Championship earlier this month.
On Saturday the two teams will do battle again in the Leinster Football Final, and Meath star Emma Duggan can’t wait for the latest instalment of a rivalry that has really taken on a life of its own.
“We've played each other a good few times now at this stage and it’s tit for tat,” she said at the launch of the Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps competition for clubs.
“I think the 5th of September last year was the first time that Dublin had really played this team so there were an awful lot of unknowns and uncertainties and it probably did stand to us on the day.
“But since then I think they've probably done enough analysis on us and now know exactly how we play and the type of players that we have and they probably have players assigned to us at this stage. We know each other now like the back of our hands. It's going to be a really, really interesting battle this weekend.
“They're going to have revenge on their minds. It's two teams with very high standards and I think it's going to be an unbelievable game. There's a great buzz around our camp to try to get over the line and really push it on from where we left it off the last day.
“We were happy with our performance but I think there's still an awful lot more in us and hopefully we can show that in Croke Park and it comes out on the biggest day next Saturday.
“We talk constantly about freshening it up a little bit and pushing our game forward so it will be hard to stop no matter what Dublin throw at us, that we'll able for it. I'm looking forward to that challenge.”
Meath have backed up last year’s All-Ireland Final win in hugely impressive fashion by winning this year’s Lidl National Football League Division 1 title.
Coping with the additional burden of expectation that was on their shoulders this season clearly hasn’t been too great a load for them to bear, and Duggan gives credit to their sports psychologist Kelley Fay for helping them deal with that pressure.
“We’ve done a huge amount of that work,” she says. “We have our sports psychologist Kelley Fay, she’s been a massive asset for us. We’ve had her for the last, I think, three years now.
“Look, she probably had an easy job last year. This year it’s definitely something that we did speak about with her.
“I think it’s something that individually we’ve probably spoken about as well in one-to-one sessions in terms of the pressures that’s going to come with each player as well.
“The expectation that people outside the camp are going to have on us, it’s an element of the game that people probably don’t pay enough attention to but for us it’s been really, really important this year.
“We’re always having meetings with her and we probably will this week as well. She’s been a massive help about maintaining focus on the job at hand rather than taking in all the outside noise, as we like to call it. She’s been a massive help and she’s one of our best assets, that’s for sure.”
Duggan’s medal haul in recent years has been impressive. She’s won the All-Ireland senior title, Intermediate title, and Division 1, 2, and 3 League titles with Meath. At club level she’s won Meath senior championships, a Leinster senior championship, and an All-Ireland Intermediate championship.
Saturday’s showdown with Dublin offers the opportunity to for a first ever Leinster Senior Championship medal with Meath, and Duggan has her eyes very much on the prize.
“It’s massive, it’s a competition that we value a huge amount having not played in it for how many years,” she says.
“It’s the same for Dublin, they haven’t had a Leinster competition in two or three years now at this stage so they’re going to be feeling the exact same way as we are.
“It’s something that a lot of us have spoken about. I don’t have a Leinster medal at adult level so it’s definitely something that I want in my back pocket as well as the rest of the girls. A lot of them only have one at intermediate level so we’re really, really motivated for the game.
“There’s an awful lot of hunger within the group so hopefully we can go out and show that on Saturday and we’re coming away with a Leinster medal.”