O'Sullivan confident there's more to come from Meath ladies
By John Harrington
The dust had barely settled on Meath’s back to back All-Ireland Ladies Football Final victory over Kerry when some analysts spooled out the line that this would be as good as it would get for the Royals.
The fact that star players Vikki Wall and Orla Lally were set to embark on AFL careers, Emma Troy was taking the 2023 season off to go travelling, and team coach Paul Garrigan was stepping away from the role were flagged up as reasons why this Meath team had peaked and the only way is was down from here.
Niamh O’Sullivan doesn’t agree. Meath’s best player in the All-Ireland is convinced that the Royals can continue to evolve and improve in the coming years.
“Definitely,” she says. “We know Paul said he was leaving at the end of the year and we can't argue with that, he's given Meath football six fantastic years.
“He's brought us from the bottom to the top. He's been an outstanding coach and brought a lot of professionalism to the county. Girls now want to play football for Meath which previously would have been a major issue. People didn't want to play for Meath and he's turned that around.
“Look, we haven't spoken about next year yet, we don't know what the story is. We're just enjoying this time and reflecting on what a wonderful year it was.
“But, no, I'm not worried at all. Yeah, you have Vikki and Orla Lally going to the AFL and Emma Troy is going travelling, but these girls are entitled to do that. What an opportunity for Vikki and Orla to experience a professional sport in Australia, I really look forward to watching them and following them.
“They'll be back in a green jersey, whether that's next year or the year after I don't know. But we'll welcome them back straight away with open arms.
“Our minors were in a Leinster Final this year. Our U-16s are competing in Leinster Finals. So Meath football is on the rise and it's only going to get better. It's going to be exciting times. If the core group stays together, that's all we need. It doesn't matter who's managing us, once the core group of players stays together, that drive to get back to Croke Park in 2023 is definitely going to be on our minds.
“We're all looking forward to even seeing each other again. We're a very close group and we're already excited about next year. I'm not worried at all. It's going to be an exciting year and a tough year obviously because we're All-Ireland champions, but we'll be ready for the task ahead.”
Meath’s 2021 All-Ireland Final win was a wonderful bolt from the blue, but O’Sullivan has derived even more satisfaction from this year’s success.
By winning the double of League and Championship they achieved their goal of silencing those who thought they were one-hit wonders.
“Yeah, definitely extra-special,” she says. “I think last year we were all probably a bit shocked that we won the All-Ireland. Even in the dressing-room afterwards we were just sitting there and couldn't believe it. Whereas this yera it was definitely more special.
“I think the whole one-hit wonder tag really helped us with our motivation this year. We really wanted to go out and prove the point that we didn't win the All-Ireland by fluke last year. So, yeah, it was extra-special.
“To have our family and friends there on All-Ireland day in Croke Park was a special moment. And when we went back to the dressing-room we all sat around in a circle, it was just a really, really special moment.
“Even for girls for who it was their first All-Ireland, just to experience that...it was definitely a moment that will live long in my memory.”