Summerhill players are a unique breed. Mattie Kerrigan was regarded as one of if not the finest player of his generation. Mick Lyons is still probably the most feared full back in the game, more than three decades after his retirement, Mark O’Reilly was Man Of The Match in an All Ireland Final and Damien Byrne played Senior football for Meath before he had done so for the ‘Hill.
All of the above is without mentioning the fact that the blue and gold were for a long time a powerhouse of the ladies game in the county. Thanks to the exploits of players such as the McNellis sisters and Dorothy McGoldrick and Lisa Kane and Derina Rispin (Shaw).
They may not be operating to the same level presently, but, they can still produce players of the utmost quality. Step forward Mary Kate Lynch. She is undoubtedly the best full back in the game at present. Her omission from the All Stars last year was nothing short of a disgrace.
The 20-year-old is not only an exceptional defender but a terrific all round footballer. As exemplified by the manner in which her surging runs from defence have become an intrinsic part of Meath’s very structured attacking play. One thing that thankfully hasn’t changed under the management of Davy Nelson.
It’s a good job it hasn’t changed too. After last week’s rusty showing against Dublin, a better day was needed and eventually delivered this afternoon in Letterkenny. A point from Ms Consistency Niamh O’Sullivan put them at ease early on, but, in a cagey first half, the only needed further white flags raised by the outstanding Niamh Gallogly and Stacey Grimes (free) to go in at half time with parity, 0-03 apiece.
The visitors opened much the brighter after the resumption with pointed frees from Grimes and O’Sullivan and although the home side hung around, the games pivotal moment arrived exactly halfway through the second period.
Ricky Nelson sang Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart long ago, or you could say ‘Hello Mary Lou, goodbye political sense’ in another arena, but today it was a case of hello Mary Kate, goodbye Donegal. Last week, this writer bemoaned the fact that for all the full back’s sojourns up field, she never shot at goal.
Whether a point was made about it during the week we’ll never know, but the value of doing so emphatically manifested itself when M.K.’s long curling shot dipped and ended up nestling in the home team’s onion bag. Which at the time left the title holders clear by 1-05 to 0-04. But, whereas Maxi Curran’s charges could only manage one more score, Grimes and O’Sullivan topped up their tallies to get Meath up and running for 2023.
MEATH: M. McGuirk; A. Sheridan, M. K. Lynch (1-0), K. Newe; N. Gallogly (0-1), S. Ennis, A. Cleary; M. O’Shaughnessy, A. Minogue; M. Thynne, M. Byrne (0-1), C. Smyth; O. Callan, S. Grimes (0-2), N. O’Sullivan (0-2). Subs – S. Melia for Callan, R. Casserly for Smyth, A. Leahy (0-1) for Thynne.