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How Kerry And Meath Kept Their All-Ireland Final Dream Burning Brightly

How Kerry And Meath Kept Their All-Ireland Final Dream Burning Brightly
By Roisin Friel

As the Ladies Football season reaches its dramatic conclusion, Róisín Friel each week gives us her analysis of the weekend's games. With a Meath v Kerry All-Ireland set for the 31st of July, here are Róisín's musings on a compelling semifinal weekend.

Kerry 4-10 Mayo 0-13

A Kerry team who have not been allowed into the centre of excellence to train this year certainly produced some excellent football on Saturday.

Kerry were outstanding. They are collectively a tall, strong, powerful and athletic team. Checking through the player profiles, there are more than one or two players standing at 5’11, mind you every one of them stood tall when it mattered on Saturday. 

Mayo, sadly, just couldn’t reproduce the magic from the previous week against Cork, there was pockets of fight here and there but they couldn’t hit the heights needed to topple the Kingdom, this time round. 

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Mayo’s creative spark gave us flashes of brilliance through Shauna Howley and Tara Needham but Kayleigh Cronin defended the Kingdom goal mouth like Leonidas at Thermopylae.

There was no way through that Kerry rear-guard and at the other end the pointed attacks of Siofra O’Shea and Niamh Carmody were causing all sorts of problems for the Mayo defence. At half time the lead looked like an ominous sign of things to come for Mayo, however true to character they battled back through Howley and Needham this time assisted by Aoife Gerarthy but you always felt they would need a goal to breathe life back into the dream yet the chances never really fell their way.

While that Kerry machine just seemed to find another gear, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh again showing us the breadth of skills she has at her disposal when it comes to dismembering the opposition, 0-5 from play in all. She could possibly top the scoring charts in two weeks’ time (thanks @gaa_statsman).

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Kerry yesterday really looked every bit the assured All-Ireland finalists as the timer ticked down, having had a few nervy wobbles in the opening stages of the game, they closed it out with the confidence often exuded by their GAA counterparts at this stage and sure why not when you have the level of skill to match the physical attributes on show?

There is something special about the attitude and application of this Kerry team, they may well be the ones to bring the Royal’s reign to an end. Hopefully they will have the best preparation possible for that battle, with the use of the excellent facilities at Farranamranagh and not just a token poster on the wall. 

Meath 0-12 Donegal 1-7

Donegal’s dream of reaching a first All-Ireland Senior final ended in what was a blisteringly paced game matching the sweltering heat in Croker on Saturday. 

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Meath and Donegal tactically mirrored each other, both defensively structured to deny any sort of real scoring opportunities. It was the wee sheep farmer from Termon, Geraldine McLaughlin, that let us know with her opening point from play, you can rely on a defensive system to stop the ordinary but genius can always find a way to shine. Something Donegal would come to learn all too well in the end when trying to deny Emma Duggan. 

This game was a nerve-wracking one, both teams sticking unwaveringly to their defensive duties in the first half. The opening exchanges thanks to the powerful running of Nicole McLaughlin and Amy Boyle Carr seemed to produce scoring opportunities for Donegal with a little more frequency than Meath were allowed at the other end.  When Niamh McLaughlin provided the needle for Donegal with that stinger of a shot that hit the crossbar and went over for a point. Soon followed up by a pinpoint penalty finish for Donegal, it felt like Donegal fans could dream little. But with the half time tactical turnaround from Meath deciding to press the Donegal kick-out rather than concede the short.  They created havoc. Vikki Wall, Emma Duggan and Niamh O’Sullivan all tagging on scores and much like the BFG, they stole Donegal dreams away. 

Donegal continued to fight for that dream though, Tanya Kennedy, Deirdre Foley and Evelyn McGinley all flinging themselves into challenges in an effort to win turnovers, Yvonne Bonner and Karen Guthrie pelting over scores. However, a giant of the ladies game in her own right even at this early stage of her career, Emma Duggan produced an emphatic display of scoring for Meath. Her point to put them ahead in the closing stages as she checked back to create just enough room to take a single step into a thunderous shot that split the posts, as Donegal’s defence scrambled back was a reflection of her willingness to be the big game player and take on the responsibility for getting their most important scores.

The closing stages was a true reflection of the belief and mentality built into this Meath team since winning the intermediate title just two years ago, they controlled possession inside their own 21’, shifting the ball from player to player even as Donegal still chasing that dream closed in, a Meath woman always seemed willing to produce herself to receive the next pass and sure enough who did it fall to in the end but that girl Emma Duggan who broke Donegal hearts with her final score. 

It’s a cruel end for Donegal and Mayo to another year, after producing two of the biggest upsets of the championship, reaching the final was just a bridge too far this time. 

For Kerry and Meath however the dream lives on. Meath coughed up a few goal chances on Saturday that you would have to feel if they fell to Kerry’s forward maestros they could really make count. The physicality of both teams and athletic ability is well matched, even off the bench both teams have excellent options to close out games. However, Meath’s winning mentality and ability to control possession could be key, particularly when they can feed a player like Duggan in the clutch moments.  

In the end both finalists will have solace, much like Donegal and Mayo in the fact that, It’s better to go out living your dream, than to not have lived at all. 

SEE ALSO: A Weekend That Turned Ladies Football On Its Head

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