Tradition has to count for something. Aficionados will question the accuracy of the previous statement given that Meath had never contested a Camogie All Ireland Final prior to their most recent excellent victory over Down. There’s a method to the route we’re taking on this journey however, so stay aboard!
Back in the mid 1990’s, these wheels rolled into Croke Park to see the Meath lady footballers take on and defeat Donegal to claim the All Ireland JFC. Dunboyne’s Dorothy McGoldrick was on the team at the time. Though, in a football sense, she was domiciled in Summerhill as there was no team in the area at the time. Home is very much where the heart is and I’d like to think that Dorothy’s achievement was at least part of the inspiration for the reformation of Dunboyne LGFC in 1996.
There has always been a very strong camogie tradition in the area too. Indeed, for a long time it was the hotbed of the sport in the county. There are many ladies in the area whose collections of county championship medals run to several multiples of ten. But, for whatever reason, after they again reigned supreme in what from memory was 1986, camogie fizzled out for a while.
Too long in fact. Now, this might seem rich coming from this corner, but, schools have a crucial role to play in generating enthusiasm among young people for sport. It’s there foundations for the future are laid. And it was on the basis of a ground in camogie in school that underage teams going in the vicinity again. Which led to the inevitable fielding of teams at adult level again. Rapid progress was made too, as the leap was made from Junior back to the top flight within three years of take off.
Naturally, the progression followed that Dunboyne players began to be selected for county teams again. Thus comes the mention of tradition into the equation. Maybe, in fact, superstition would describe things better. Remember, recently was the first time a team a team of Meath ladies were back in HQ for an adult final since the day Dorothy and others like Dearbhla O’Carroll, Derina Rispin (nee Shaw) and Christine Fagan (nee O’Brien) and others brought glory to the county.
Allied to that, their coach John Davis has a proven record for taking Meath teams where they’ve never been before. Under his guidance, the Meath hurlers scored National League victories against Offaly and Wexford when the former were All Ireland champions. Perhaps indeed their greatest ever performance was when running Offaly to six points in the Leinster SHC on a day when Anton O’Neill blotted out Joe Dooley.
Mind you, in the current context, surely it’s most important to attribute fulsome praise to the players too. Anyone who has ever been over a team – including yours truly – can attest that any coach is only as good as the players at their disposal.
In recent times, the talent and dedication of this group of girls and their mentors has been to the fore as their stock has continued to burgeon. Promotions have been gained in both league and championship of late, with noteworthy victories against Cork and Kilkenny clocked up along the way. Like anyone with even a modicum of interest in GAA, a big day out in Croker has always been the dream.
Victory over Kildare in the semi final guaranteed just that. Once they got there, a very large amount of superstition in me sensed they were destined for success. Yes, it was mostly rooted in the Davis factor and that they were the first Meath ladies to get to such a stage since the football win all those years ago.
Nobody could’ve quite envisaged how things turned out though. Merely being there and the influence of Davis was a big deal in itself. But, as things transpired, history was repeated in more ways than one! For, not only was the 100% record of Meath women in finals maintained, but, again, it was a Dunboyne player that struck the crucial score.
Echoes of Brendan Reilly’s point in 1996 abounded as it was Sinead Hackett’s goal that ultimately won the day. The similarities didn’t end there though. Sinead’s brother, Neil, played a starring role when Meath annexed the Nicky Rackard Cup. He finished top scorer that day too. On that team also was Paul Fagan. During the camogie campaign, while Sinead starred in attack, her Dunboyne colleagues Fiona O’Neill and Aoife Thompson were dynamic in defence. Aine Keogh wore black and amber for a while too and half forward Aileen Donnelly is married to Dunboyne senior hurling manager Paul Reilly, so there were plenty of reasons to celebrate all round!
On other levels, the significance of this Meath win cannot be understated. Closer to home, it was a very poignant success. In terms of the greater scheme of things, the Royals can now be rightly regarded as a force in camogie. The strides they have made in recent times have been immense. All credit to all concerned for that. They’re not finished by a long shot either!