A continuing success story with optimism for the future

Whatever about success elsewhere fuelling more of same in certain places, or, for that matter, incremental progress giving rise to hope close to home, somewhere else Meath teams have been competing with gusto in recent times has been Ladies Football.

Temptation was to say that regrettably thus far those efforts have gone unrewarded, but, such a stance would do a great disservice to Eamonn Murray and his charges. The value of the promotion they garnered earlier in the year in the National League courtesy of conquest of Sligo in Clones cannot be underestimated. Only by tackling better calibre opponents will betterment come your way.

However, even though All Ireland final heartache was recently their lot for the second year running, conviction remains that the breakthrough they deserve is just a break of a ball away. It’s often said that Ladies Football is the fastest growing sport in the country and perhaps best evidence of this remains closest to home. Around a quarter century ago, I recall being in Croke Park when a Meath team comprising the likes of Anne-Marie Dennehy, Dearbhla O’Carroll, Christine Fagan (nee O’Brien) and Dunboyne’s Dorothy McGoldrick defeated Donegal to claim the All Ireland JFC.

Dorothy was joined on that Meath panel by Lisa Kane. In the fixture which followed, Laois and Monaghan faced off the Senior decider. On that Laois team was Sue Ramsbottom who went on to be Aide de Camp to either a Taoiseach or President, I can’t remember exactly which.

Looking back now, it’s hard to know which seems the most unfathomable – the paltry crowd that was in GAA HQ that day or the fact that our two representatives had to ply their trade outside the town at club level. Dorothy and Lisa being aligned with Summerhill while others sought refuge in Ratoath and Kilbride. Successfully so in both cases.

The sporting romantic in me would like to believe that Meath’s success that day was the springboard from which Dunboyne Ladies GFC spawned a couple of years later. To be fair, it’s most likely that the opening of St Peter’s College and a strong sporting ethos therein was even more a catalyst.

Either way, the ups and downs of the Ladies game in this locality over the years have been well covered in this space. This may be considered an intrenched view in some quarters but be assured it’s not meant as such at all – surely it’s more than coincidence that since unity took hold in certain places, matters have prospered remarkably.

To the extent that there were seven Dunboyne ladies among Eamonn Murray’s panel which battled valiantly against but ultimately succumbed against a talented Tipperary team which – lest it be forgotten – were back in the Intermediate grade having been at the top table not so long ago.

A few thoughts abounded having watched them battled with all their might against a more travelled outfit from the Premier County. Firstly, that Eamonn’s army have been most unlucky in the last two seasons to (a) encounter a Tyrone team in the 2018 showpiece which had come up short at the same stage a year previously and (b) to collide with a Premier County crew who’d be dining at the top table last term. You would hope that, if the Meath group stick together, these reversals could be a driving force for them going forward.

Not many would know this, but, Eamonn Murray and I go back a long way. For when my living quarters were put in place 23 years ago, it was himself that did all the tiling work. It could never have been envisaged that years later he would again crop up on my horizon in this guise.

Though in another sense, in more recent times, there was probably something of an inevitability about it given the magnificent work carried out with Meath underage teams over a number of years. Something being carried on by my friend and colleague Fergal Lynch who – in his role as county Minor manager – who oversaw annexation of a provincial title at the age group a few months ago.

Indeed, it’s indicative of the talent currently within the county that Dunboyne’s Sarah Wall and Emma Duggan were part of both panels this year. There were probably more of a crossover – maybe even more from Dunboyne – and one apologises profusely for not being totally up to speed. No offence is intended to anybody. The bigger picture is one of continuing success with justifiable optimism for the future.

What could not have been foreseen, however, was our club having seven representatives on the county senior panel. Each of them absolutely meritorious in their selection. Even though defeat was eventually their lot against Shane Ronayne’s side, immense comfort and pride could and should be drawn from the fact that our players contributed 1-10 out of the 1-14 collectively amassed. Mind you, the withdrawal of Duggan – whether necessary or otherwise – was seriously debilitating at a time when the underdogs were slowly but steadily working their way back into the game.

Dunboyne’s Magnificent Seven: All Ireland Final Day 2019 (Photo Courtesy of Dunboyne GAA)

Anyway, in my position, there has to be an awful lot of pulling whatever morsels of positivity can be derived from a given scenario. Thus, when the senior men’s team in the club had their involvement in the local championship extinguished much earlier than would have been desired.

I would have been fairly heavily involved in going to and covering games when the Ladies Football Club got going in earnest in the mid-1990s. However, for a variety of reasons, connections with the whole scene drifted for a period. Sometimes, though, all it takes is a little bit of a personal connection to re-ignite the flame.

In this instance, the fact that my niece Niamh Farrell is lining out at corner back on the club senior team. Of course, she has been playing football for many years and this corner should’ve seen her in action a lot more than has been the case until now. Then again, maybe everything does happen for a reason.

Mention was made in this space a while back of the passing of mam’s brother Jem. On the morning after he slipped away to the garden above, by way of getting away from all that was going on, these wheels rambled up to watch Niamh et al taking on Simonstown Gaels on the SFC.

Now, as with the men of both clubs, the two bunches of ladies are no strangers to one another and they’ve developed quite the rivalry over the years. Clashes between the two are generally enthralling and this one was no different as – despite both sides being short a number of regulars – Dunboyne staged a memorable comeback to dig out a one point win on a 3-08 to 2-10 scoreline.

Even within minutes of the latest encounter ending, the sense was that the two would meet again before year’s end in the business section of the season. Within days of what you are now reading it should be apparent whether such is the case or not.

Hope in this seat will be that the outcome will be in the affirmative. The great thing about sport is that, generally, something else to latch onto is never too far away. Seldom if ever was that more needed than now. This winter is going to be long and painful enough as it is.   

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