Glass half full for resolute Royals

A long time ago now, the resolution dawned that if change is desired within the GAA it can be achieved. As long as one has an almost infinite level of patience. There are numerous examples which could be employed here to illustrate the point. Frees and line balls from the hand in football, red and yellow cards, number boards for substitutions, the allowance of five substitutions, Blood Subs and the Sin Bin.
Some of the alterations have taken longer to gain acceptance than others. HawkEye being fairly near the top of that list. No matter what changes have already been implemented, there’s always more which can at the very least be experimented with. 
If punting on what adjustments might be trialled next, chances are the countdown clock/hooter system already utilised without blemish in Ladies Football. Serious consideration also needs to be given to the awarding of two points if a line ball goes over the bar in hurling or camogie. That dictum got a run out previously before being discontinued. Along with the one pertaining to limiting the number of consecutive handpasses in football, it could do with being recalled.
However, on Sunday last came evidence that the Camogie Association may, in fact, have got the jump on all comers. Courtesy of their imaginative and innovative step of having the players names above their jersey numbers on all teams in the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Finals in Croke Park. Doubtless, conservative purists might well decry the move as another step towards moving GAA sports another step closer to being aligned with ‘foreign’ codes. But so what?
Anything done in the name of promotion is to be welcomed. In fact, it’s necessary. How do you mould future generations to come along better than letting them find their own heroes? Why would they want “Haaland” or “Jesus” – the footballer, not the other lad – or “Mount” on their replica jersey when they could have “Keogan” or “Regan” or “Duggan” or “Minogue” thereon. 

The greatest and most genuine heroes are hewn closest to home. More of that momentarily, but there’s a few stops on the journey before we get there. Whatever about having players’ names on the jerseys, if anybody hadn’t heard of Aoife Minogue (Where have you been?) before Sunday, they surely do now!
The gifted Dunderry lady is one of those rare marvels nowadays – a dual star. With no disrespect meant to anybody, she has been the driving force behind the progress achieved in the small ball code by the Royal County ladies in recent seasons. As if to underscore that fact, she grasped possession straight from the throw in, motored towards Hill 16 and clipped over the first score almost immediately.
When corner forward Ciara Foley latched onto a loose clearance by the Derry custodian Niamh Gribben and batted it to the net, an unfamiliar spectator could be forgiven for assuming Brendan Skehan’s team were going to have a handy afternoon’s work.
Lest anyone think otherwise, in no way would I consider myself an aficionado of the camogie scene, but, learning on the job, it became obvious to me that the competition at Intermediate level in particular was feverish. 
After all, Meath met more or less the same sides in their National League campaign as was the case in the Championship and there was never more than a puc of the ball between any of them. 
So it was almost inevitable that the Oak Leaf County would respond to the Royal salvo with interest. And then some. If Foley’s goal was fortuitous in nature, the ‘major’ fashioned by Mairead McNicholl at the other end was equally so. 
To their credit however, once the Ulster side hogged the initiative via the McNicholl goal, they didn’t half hammer it home. Points flowed from the sticks of Aoife Shaw, Aine McAllister and Lauren McKenna. 
Meaning that, aligned to the fact that Meath hadn’t bothered the umpires since Foley’s goal, the white and red held sway by 1-08 to 1-01 at the change of ends. 
Which brought to mind those lines from Al Paccino’s speech in Any Given Sunday – “We’re in hell right now, people, and, we can stay here, get the sh** kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. One inch at a time”. 
Abbye Donnelly commenced the tunnelling out process when pointing immediately after the restart. But even if Mystic Meg had been Brendan Skehan’s Eileen Drury, it’s doubtful she could foresaw how the second half would play out. 
Bit by bit, the lead was whittled down as Amy Gaffney, Minogue, Foley and team captain Ellen Burke all dissected the posts into the Canal End. Essentially meaning that the order of business from the first half was turned on its head.
What caused the seismic shift? Meath were only able to impose their attacking prowess on proceedings due to gargantuan excellence of Claire Coffey and Sophia Payne and Tracey King and Maeve Clince at the back. 
That said, Derry still looked to be in control until a scrambled goal from Aoibhin Lally and a point from Minogue gave Meath salvation which seemed highly unlikely until it actually happened. 
Seconds later, the yellow helmeted midfielder had a chance to affect what would’ve absolutely amounted to pilfering the title but her point attempt literally grazed the wrong side of the post. 
Scorer-in-chief Minogue was visibly distraught over the miss. She needn’t have been. Firstly because she had done so much to get the team to where they were on the day. 
Secondly, and most importantly, for this Meath team, the glass is still very much half full. We go again. 

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