Meath ladies win historic first All-Ireland Senior Football title
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final 2021
MEATH 1-11 DUBLIN 0-12
By John Harrington at Croke Park
This was one of the great days in Croke Park.
Pure heroism from Meath as they won their first ever TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football title, and an outpouring of emotion after the final hooter blew that made the air crackle in Dublin 3.
Not many people gave Meath a chance coming into this match, but as team captain Shauna Ennis said in her victory speech, everyone in their own dressing-room was confident they could stop Dublin’s bid for five All-Irelands in a row.
They certainly played with that conviction because they were the better team from start to finish.
Not only did they perform with great heart, they also possessed incredible poise.
The game intelligence for a group of players with so little experience at this level was truly remarkable.
Time and again they made Dublin dizzy with their ability to retain possession by playing the ball patiently out of defence and before striking like cobras when they did make it into opposition territory.
It almost feels wrong to single out any individuals because this was the ultimate team performance by Meath, but some deserve extra-special mention.
There are very few sportspeople in Gaelic Games who send a buzz around a stadium as soon as they get their hands on the ball, but Vikki Wall is one such person.
Dublin did their best to limit her influence, but you might as well have been trying to hold back the tide with a wall of sand.
Time and again she burst forward with great power and athleticism to leave Dublin defenders scattered like rag-dolls in her wake.
The effect was two-fold. Her team-mates were inspired by her example and so were the very vocal Meath supporters roared their team on from start to finish.
Emma Duggan showed why she’s regarded as one of the brightest young talents in the country with a haul of 1-2 from play and some beautiful passing that created openings for others.
Niamh O’Sullivan sniped three points in attack, and Emma Troy showed remarkable bravery and initiative to drive forward from corner-back and score two herself.
A word too for goalkeeper Monica McGuirk who made a vital save from Hannah Tyrrell in the first-half and gave her team a wonderful platform to play with her laser-guided passing.
Meath seized the initiative right from the get-go when Wall won possession from the throw-in and burst through the Dublin defence on one of those turbo-charged solo-runs to win a free that the classy Stacey Grimes converted to give her team the perfect start.
Sinead Aherne and Niamh O’Sullivan traded points before Meath made a major breakthrough on seven minutes with the only goal of the match.
Ciara Trant’s kick-out was claimed by Emma Duggan who got her head up for a look before arcing a perfectly struck lob over the furiously back-peddling goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Hannah Tyrrell replied with a point for Dublin and would prove to be a thorn in Meath’s side all day, finishing with four from play, but she was the only member of their attack who posed a consistent threat.
Meath led by 1-4 to 0-4 at the water-break, and were even better in the second quarter.
For the second-time in the match Emma Troy got forward from corner-back to get on the end of a mesmeric team move and finish coolly.
If ever a score summed up Meath’s combination of ambition and footballing nous, it was this one. It put the Royals five point ahead, and they still held that advantage at half-time, leading by 1-8 to 0-6.
Dublin started the second half quite well with a Hannah Tyrrell point and Carla Rowe then cut the gap to three, but they never really looked like cutting open Meath’s superbly organised defence.
And when Stacey Grimes and Emma Duggan clipped over two classy points either side of the second-half water-break to restore Meath’s five-point advantage, the sense that we were watching history in the making really grew.
Dublin came with a burst of three points that briefly threatened a late comeback, but any jangling Meath nerves were settled when O’Sullivan curled over another brilliant point from a tight angle.
In the final couple of minutes Meath once again displayed their ability to retain possession with cool passing and canny movement, and when the hooter eventually blew the explosion of noise that swiftly followed it was something special.
Scorers for Meath: Emma Duggan 1-2, Niamh O’Sullivan 0-3, Stacey Grimes 0-3, Emma Troy 0-2, Bridgetta Lynch 0-1.
Scorers for Dublin: Hannah Tyrrell 0-7 (3f), Martha Byrne, Sinead Aherne, Lyndsey Davey, Carla Rowe, Kate Sullivan 0-1
MEATH: Monica McGuirk; Emma Troy, Mary Kate Lynch, Katie Newe; Aoibheann Leahy, Aoibhín Cleary, Shauna Ennis; Orlagh Lally, Máire O’Shaughnessy, Orla Byrne, Stacey Grimes, Niamh O’Sullivan; Vikki Wall, Emma Duggan, Bridgetta Lynch. Subs: Megan Thynne for Bridgetta Lynch, Niamh Gallogly for Aoibheann Leahy (45), Emma White for Niamh O’Sullivan (58), Shelly Melia for Orlagh Lally (59)
DUBLIN: Ciara Trant; Martha Byrne, Niamh Collins, Leah Caffrey; Sinead Goldrick, Siobhan McGrath, Orlagh Nolan; Jennifer Dunne, Lauren Magee; Hannah Tyrrell, Lyndsey Davey, Carla Rowe, Sinead Aherne, Niamh Hetherton, Siobhan Killeen. Subs: Caoimhe O’Connor for Niamh Hetherton (27), Niamh McEvoy for Siobhan Killeen, Olwen Carey for Siobhan McGrath (both ht), Kate Sullivan for Orlagh Nolan (45), Aoife Kane for Lyndsey Davey (54)
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down)