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'He Sent A Message To Our Meath Group Chat An Hour Before'

7 September 2022; Ambassador Emma Duggan in attendance at the launch of European Week of Sport 2022, in partnership with Sport Ireland. European Week of Sport is a week-long celebration of sport which promotes physical activity in people of all ages, backgrounds, or fitness levels. Sport Ireland is calling on you and your family to get out and #BeActive between the 23rd - 30th of September and who knows, this may be the start of a new found love for sport. For more information and to find an event near you, go to - www.sportireland.ie/europeanweekofsport. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

By PJ Browne Updated

In late August, shortly before it became known to the nation, Eamonn Murray dropped a message into the Meath WhatsApp group confirming what many players had suspected for the previous four weeks.

After what was called "a lifetime of commitment and dedication to the development and progression of ladies football" in Meath, Murray stepped down as senior team manager.

"He sent a message into our group chat about an hour before it was all released to the media," explains Emma Duggan, speaking at the launch of the European Week of Sport 2022.

"I suppose we all kind of had a feeling. It was quite an emotional dressing room after the All-Ireland final so there was kind of an eerie atmosphere around that."

A month earlier, Murray had guided Meath to the defence of their All-Ireland title with a nine-point victory over Kerry at Croke Park. He is not the only backroom team departure. Paul Garrigan and Eugene Ivers have moved from the Meath women's football team to the men's side.

"There's probably an element of going out on a high," says Duggan, "but the rest of the backroom team had confirmed they were going before Eamonn had, so when they were leaving - and Eamonn's been involved with them for the last six years - I suppose he just wanted to go with them as well.

"I think he said in one of his interviews that he didn't want to be getting in the way either. No doubt it was a very tough decision, Eamonn's been involved in Meath football for as long as I can remember. He's been involved in all of my underage teams since U12. It's like giving your baby back so it's going to be very tough for him and a lifestyle change but he can go out on a high."

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31 July 2022; Emma Duggan of Meath in action against Julie O'Sullivan of Kerry the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Duggan says Murray is "different" to "every other manager I know in the country".

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'Before Eamonn, Meath were at the very bottom'

"He genuinely wants the best for every single one of his players," she says.

"Whether we're down in the dumps or winning All-Irelands, he always wants to see us with a smile on our faces and making sure that we enjoy our football.

"What's always stood to me is that he's always had our best interests at heart. He's the most sincere man and his honesty often gets him in trouble but it's something I would never change about him and he's going to be missed.

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"He's a big figure in all of our lives and he's acted as a father figure for all of us so he definitely won't be a stranger and we're not going to get rid of him too fast.

"The relationship he's had with us all, we wouldn't be here without him. He gathered everyone together. I think it's been mentioned a good few times, that before Eamonn came in, Meath were at the very, very bottom, and no one wanted to play for Meath.

"Because he had such a close-knit relationship with a lot of players in Meath, he dragged us all back in. He got players motivated to come back in, and want to play for Meath. It all started from him. It can be easily forgotten about, that time of our lives when Meath were poor. Eamonn gave us all a lift when we needed it."

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31 July 2022; Emma Duggan, left, and Vikki Wall of Meath after the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Meath at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Along with the departures from the backroom team, Meath have also lost three key players in Vikki Wall, Orlagh Lally, and Emma Troy. All three have moved to Australia. Wall and Lally are two of the 22 Irish players lining out for AFLW sides this season.

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"TG4 are showing the highlights, so I've been keeping an eye on them," says Duggan about her former teammates' exploits Down Under.

"I've been keeping in regular contact with them as well. They are loving life over there. It's nice to see that they're happy, and enjoying themselves away from home.

"Vikki was always going to adapt to the game very, very well. It's her cup of tea. The physicality, I know that's something she was really looking forward to as well. I was never, every worried about Vikki, or Orlagh either. I've seen clips of Orlagh, and she's taken to the game really well.

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"It's lovely to see. They've obviously taken a risk going over there. So far, it looks to be paying off, so I'm delighted for both of them."

See Also: Kerry Dominate Football All-Star Nominations As 11 Counties Recognised


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