At the outset here, I must again defer to a piece of advice imparted in this direction via Ireland’s greatest man of letters, the gentle giant from Castle Island. He once wrote, in the context of his own failing health at the time that “If you have knowledge on a subject and are up to speed with happenings therein, there should be nothing precluding one from writing thereon”. That being in the instance when the writer is unable to be at an event in person.
From Castle Island, I find myself heading north, in search of Van Morrison, who observed that “When it’s not always raining, there’ll be days like this, when there’s no-one complaining, there’ll be days like this, when everything falls into place at the flick of a switch, I just have to remember, there’ll be days like this”.
For you see, I often think Bing Crosby may have had a premonition about yours truly when he sang “I’ve met some folks who say that I’m a dreamer, and I’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say. But sure a body is bound to be a dreamer, when all the things he loves are far away”.
Geographically, it was only six miles away, but it may as well have been 500. Thankfully, though, this was no dream. Instead a glorious reality. Another quite remarkable chapter in the history of the old home town.
Take sport out of the equation for a minute. What the Dunboyne ladies have achieved in what is now nearly a decade goes beyond sport. They have got everybody behind them, people who previously wouldn’t have known a football from a lump of boiled bacon are now captivated by their story.
And this corner is surely not alone in having the spirits immeasurably lifted by the astonishing achievements of these remarkable ladies. Ironically, never more so than today.
Some will know, more won’t, that this writer has been playing into the wind for the last while, but, to put the tin hat on it altogether, a physical off the ball dig (Not literal) left the wheels docked in sickbay on county final day.
Which is where Mr Houlihan’s quote comes into play. Thanks to the efficiency of the Meath Ladies Co Board on Twitter and Davy Rispin’s commentary, not a kick of the ball was missed.
Now, with our neighbours and great rivals having only joined the senior ranks last year, that our girls started favourites was probably understandable. However, anyone thinking it was about to be one way traffic was well wide of the mark.
No meeting between the neighbouring parishes is ever lopsided. Regardless of the competition or grade. The form book can go in uhe furnace. Besides, the challengers’ credentials were beyond scrutiny, if only on foot of their impressive victory over perennial contenders and long time flag bearers Seneschalstown.
So that the sides were level three times during the first half was hardly shocking. Mind you, the treble-chasing champions would scarcely havr been overly preturbed at trailing by a point, 0-05 to 0-06, at the change of ends.
Simply because, a huge part of being successful – especially serially so – is knowing how to win. That only comes (a) from experiencing defeat beforehand and (b) after being on the road for a while, an immunity to panic and being streetwise enough to close out the job.
Still, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, having belatedly come across footage of the match online (Major kudos to the Meath Ladies Co Board) it was easy to concur with the view that the defending champions were fortunate to only trail by the minimum.
Naturally, the loss of Vikki Wall is an immense one to our team, but the return of her sister Sarah – who missed so much football herself through injury – should not be underestimated.
Nor, indeed, should the strength-in-depth possessed by Brendan Quinn’s charges. As best evidenced by the fact that quality players like former Meath goalkeeper Alison O’Sullivan, Niamh Williams and the evergreen and inspirational duo of Julie Kavanagh and Aoife Thompson could be held in reserve.
With Vikki doing what she does best at the other end of the world, obviously, much of the opposition focus automatically diverts to Emma Duggan. As if plenty of it wasn’t there already!
However, they would be operating on a false sense of security if believing that Dunboyne were a one trick pony. That said, when need was greatest here, it was, as so often before, the mercurial Duggan who stood up to the plate.
Her goal six minutes into the second half gave those sporting their traditional blue and red attire a lead they would ultimately not surrender. Though the valiantly vanquished did hang in there to the end and when the dust had settled, it was Duggan’s strike and the magnificent nine points which accompanied it which made the major difference.
If one was to sit back and analyse the extraordinary accomplishments of this Dunboyne team, though it is a case of having to go back. Yes, repetition is one of the greatest foibles in this trade, but, there is absolutely a necessity to realise that, less than ten years ago, the club wasn’t even fielding an adult team.
Contrast that to this present weekend when both of our adult teams contested their County Final and, at the time of typing, stating the obvious, one title is already in the bag. Even that, though, would only tell a fraction of this story that blessedly continues to roll on.
In a previous incarnation, Dunboyne Ladies teams won county titles at Junior and Intermediate level but consider that since this group began their storied odyssey, they have won County, Provincial and All Ireland honours at Junior and Intermediate level, have now won the Meath SFC three years on the spin. There was at least one County League title in there as well.
Cold, dispassionate analysis is not only difficult in these situations, but, it’s futile and a tad disrespectful to compare one generation of players against the other. For so many years, Seneschalstown and St Ultan’s were considerably ahead of the pack. These things are always cyclical though.
It’s highly unlikely anybody will ever exert the influence over things that the two clubs mentioned above did. But victors of the day shouldn’t be compared to them either. Every victory is hard earned and so deserving of acclaim in its own right. That said, this is our time and for however long it lasts it must be rightly regarded as the greatest period in the history of our club.
That said, this writer must issue a bit of a mea culpa here. On several occasions in the not so distant past on these pages I lamented the fact that our male senior footballers were not able to compete to the level, say, of a Kilmacud Crokes or a Kilcoo or, in a hurling sense, Portumna or Ballygunnar or Ballyhale Shamrocks.
Yes, it still rankles that our lads are not at the aforementioned plateau, and whether the ambition is there to do so has to be questioned at this stage. But, it was completely remiss of me not to make much more of the fact that our ladies are and have been for some time.
Indeed, from the point of view of provincial and/or All Ireland level, they must have as good as any if not the best record of any Meath team. For all that, you’re only as good as your last game. Which thankfully in our case was bountiful.
The past can be chronicled and celebrated in time, but for now, the present is where it’s at, and we can but excitedly wonder what the future holds.
Thus, the expedition into the wider world will begin again shortly. If my inclination is correct, it pits a Dunboyne team against Kilmacud Crokes for a fourth time. There’s a balance to redress there.
The challenge will undoubtedly be formiddable but gut feeling is that nothing is impossible for this unique group of people. I will eventually document their story in book form.
Production will be held off for a while yet, though, as hope and expectation is that there are several chapters to be added yet.
Dunboyne: M. Mooney; R. McDermott, E. Doyle (Capt.), H. Nolan; H. Hickey (0-1), S. Wall, A. Moffatt; A. Jones, L. Pearl; A. Delaney, S. Melia, S. Quinn (0-2); L. Grant, E. Duggan (1-9), A. Boylan. Subs; J. Kavanagh for Boylan, A. Thompson (0-1) for Grant, N. Williams for McDermott, R. Norman for Pearl.
Referee: H. Clifford (Ballivor)