For the third week in a row, it is a wonderful position to be in, writing about a Meath team in an All Ireland Final. Following on from the U-20 hurlers – for whom two James Murray goals got them over the line against Derry – and the almost unfathomable manner in which the lady footballers extricated themselves from impending doom to qualify for a first appearance in a Brendan Martin Cup decider, here, Cathal O’Bric’s charges were in front from the off as they circumnavigated Sligo to qualify for the All Ireland Final for the first time since 2012.
After only 11 seconds, Christian Finlay won possession in front of his man, turned and lofted over a mighty score. That set the tone, both for the St Colmcille’s youngster’s personal performance and the manner in which the green and gold collective played the game on their terms. Never allowing the Connacht kingpins get a foothold in the game.
Points flowed from Finlay, Hughie Corcoran, Oisin O’Murchu, Conor Ennis and Shaun Leonard meant that a Brian Duffy penalty shortly before the break was only of the consolation variety as the back-to-back Leinster winners led by 1-11 to 1-04.
Perhaps it was understandable that they couldn’t maintain the levels of intensity reached in the first half. Most especially when they were reduced to 14 men following the curious and very harsh looking dismissal of Oisin O’Murchu. At no stage, though, did they look in trouble. It may worry the Meath management that they only registered three points in the second period – courtesy of O’Murchu, Corcoran and the hardworking Conor McWeeney of Kilbride – before a late goal from the introduced John Mannion put the seal on a dominant performance.
The Meath defence are deserving of particular commendation on this occasion. Throughout their campaign to date, the efficiency and rapidity with which they have been able to effect turnovers has been the basis of their journey so far. Never more so than today when their immense captain Liam Kelly and Conor Ennis and Shaun Leonard and Mossie Corbett were the foundation upon which today’s victory was structured.
No doubt they will have to do the same again and then some when they tackle a very impressive looking Tyrone side in the Final next week. That said, they can go forth in search of a first annexation of the Tom Markham Cup in 29 years with hope and confidence.