Having just seen the Roscommon football team with which he is a mentor defeat his native Donegal and in so doing relegate them, Mark McHugh stated that, having attained promotion last season under Anthony Cunningham, their main objective was to maintain their top flight status. Having become something of a yoyo team in recent seasons. Chances are, very similar sentiments will prevail in Meath hurling circles tonight after Seoirse Bulfin’s men overcame an improving Donegal side at Avant Money Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada in Carrick-On-Shannon to claim the NHL Div. 2B title.
Again there is a need to salute the resilience and obduracy of these Royal stickmen. Going back as far as when they achieved the unlikely in defeating Antrim (twice) to claim the Christy Ring Cup, Meath hurling has, in the recent past, been imbued with the characteristics that once our footballers were feted for. And, also in the last few years, our lady footballers seem to have inherited with the acquisition of their Kepak jerseys. If it aint broke don’t fix it as they say.
Whatever causes the germination of what Liam Hayes once called “Magic Dust”, every available bit of it was required as the pre match favourites ensured they did indeed get through their spring campaign unbeaten and thus go up. Don’t be fooled by the six point margin at the end fool you. Or, indeed, the fact that Eamon Og O’Donnchadh and Sean Quigley had both raised white flags inside the first 60 seconds. It was, in truth, only the mesmeric accuracy of Jack Regan which ensured the Leinster men led by 0-10 to 0-08 at the change of ends.
At this point, I feel it would be remiss not to mention special mention of Padraig O’Hanrahan. The Ratoath clubman was Meath’s marksman-in-chief in the early rounds of the league while Regan recovered from injury and thus played a huge part in their advancement to today’s Final. He was of course on the mark again but when the men from the North West hit the first triumvirate of points in the second half it was clear Meath were going to require everything at their disposal to repel their doughty fellow combatants.
Thankfully, that includes one of the finest custodians in the small ball code in Charlie Ennis and the Trim player being at his brilliant best in denying Donegal’s Declan Coulter a goal unquestionably buoyed Bulfin’s boys and its effect – combined with the brilliance of Daire Shine when introduced – got Meath over the line.
There’s no doubt that the final margin slightly flattered the eventual victors but, with the first silverware of the Bulfin era having been garnered, a fairly confident guess would be hazarded that it will not be the last.
MEATH – C. Ennis; G. Dwane, D. Healy, B. McKeon; N. McLarnon, J. Toher, S. Ennis; S. Geraghty (0-1), M. Healy; S. Morris (0-1), J. Regan (0-11), M. Cole; S. Quigley (0-1), E. Og O’Donnchadh (0-2), P. O’Hanrahan (0-1). SUBS – P. Barnwell for Cole, J. Kelly for O’Hanrahan, D. Shine (0-2) for M. Healy, S. Coloe for Quigley, S. Brennan for McLarnon.