Ennis reveals unlikely secret to Meath's success
By John Harrington
The secret to Meath’s dramatic run to Sunday’s All-Ireland Ladies Football Final against Dublin is an unlikely one – spice bags!
It turns out the prospect of indulging in that takeaway treat is all the motivation their defenders have needed to become one of the meanest units in the country.
With team-captain Shauna Ennis to the fore, their superbly organised defensive system is one of the main reasons they’re in the All-Ireland Final.
Meath’s defence coach, Shane Wall, has done great work getting them so in sync, but it has cost him the price of many a spice bag along the way.
“Paul Garrigan is our overall coach and Shane Wall is our defence coach so Shane would work with our defence a lot,” says Ennis.
“It is actually very funny; at training it can get competitive between the forwards and the backs. The management team do be betting spice bags on it. They have to buy us spice bags on the way home if we win!
“Since the management took midway through 2017, working on our defence had been a huge thing. Every year since then I think we have upped it another level and we have made slight adjustments.
“At this stage, we all know our roles in that system, subs are coming in and they are expected to slot in seamlessly into those roles so it is definitely something we worked hard on in training.”
Meath’s defence has been super all year, but their forwards are no slouches either.
Trailing by six points with a minute to play in the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, against the odds they engineered two late dramatic goals that took the match to extra-time and laid the platform for an incredible Meath victory.
I think I was down in the full back line at that time and I was sort of like ‘we can’t let this go now, we can’t’,” says Ennis of the final crazy minute of normal time against Cork.
“We all then pushed up the pitch. You can’t really think about the what ifs until that final buzzer goes. To be honest, the whole match is a blur and even the aftermath is a blur.
“I think we enjoyed the win over Armagh far more than the win over Cork, because after that win we were just absolutely exhausted. Look, in fairness, it was really fairytale stuff.
“Somebody told me we were 1000-1 with 1 minute 40 seconds to go - so to turn those odds around was really something else.
“We were fairly stunned. I just remember going into the huddle and everyone was really positive. We felt because we had got the last few scores that we could really push on then.
“I think even the fact that I had been watching the Mayo match the night before, and seeing what they did in extra-time to push on and win, I think that was a good motivator as well.”
Not surprisingly, given the nature of their semi-final win, the Meath players now feel anything is possible.
Five-in-a-row seeking Dublin are the hottest of hot favourites, but Ennis is convinced the Royals have a great chance of pulling off what would be an almighty shock and is determined to seize the opportunity.
“I don't think we'd go up there if we didn't believe that we were contenders,” she says.
“We know what it's like to lose in Croke Park on an All-Ireland Final day and we really don't want to have that feeling this weekend. Yeah, we really do believe that we can.
“We know that we're going to have to play to our absolute best ability if we want to beat them. So we're just looking for a really good performance on the day.
“I think it is really important to remember you might never get back to a senior All-Ireland final again, you might never have this chance again.
“I think there are a lot of talented people coming up and I am sure there are loads of talented girls coming up but that does not really county for anything so I would rather win this Sunday than try and get back there again next year. We are just hoping to take this chance that we have.”