Full time: Meath 4 – 07 – Clare 3 – 11
‘’One of the most entertaining games of the year so far’’! It was heard to be said by an official at the Minor final in Ballinasloe. Indeed it was a nail biter from start to finish. Heart break though for Meath who up until the last couple of minutes looked like they might capture a second All Ireland final in as many years! Clare to be fair piled on the pressure and broke down several Meath attacks at the end. It was always going to be tough as both teams wanted the win. Clare hasn’t won the title since 2013 – Meath was looking for a much-needed boost ahead of their quarter final clash on Saturday next also against Clare.
Meath was the first to settle after a nervy start by both teams. Caroline McLoughlin Quinn hit the back of the Clare net after a superb passing move which saw Aoibhin Cleary pass to Lauryn Grier who put in a beauty of a pass to the elusive McLoughlin Quinn. Meath had a few more chances but the Clare backs were paying close attention to the Meath forwards forcing them to shoot under pressure and missing some gilt edged chances. They would rue these missed efforts later on, unfortunately. The Clare forwards was picking off their points nicely and it wasn’t long before it was a drawn game with Meath 1 – 02 to Clares five points. Neither side was able to gain any advantage until Clare after a great team move hit the back of the Meath net. Game on!
After that Simonstowns Lauryn Grier went on a run of her own and launched a missile into the back of the Banner net. There was no stopping it. Meath was looking good again and midfielder Anna Branagan hit the last score of the half to see Meath taking a two point advantage in the break.
The second half was to prove as frenetic as the first with chances missed at both ends. Some fine saves by Meath net minder Judy Bobbett kept the Royals in the game on a few occasions. Likewise, the Clare Keeper Micaela Glynn put paid to a few Meath chances with some fine saves. Midway through the half Clare were awarded a penalty which was duly dispatched by the Clare taker.
Once again it was Grier who pulled Meath back into contention with a well-taken goal. But it wasn’t long before Clare hit the back of the Royal net again. Meath at this stage was a point to the good with only a few minutes on the clock. Sub Tara Berigan on for Meath and was an instant success when she hit the back of the net from a tight angle.
With just four minutes left the scores were level and although Meath had several more attacks the Clare defence stood strong. Meath had one last crack at the Clare goals but alas it went just wide of the post.
Clare had the final say in this brilliant game when they put the ball between the posts courtesy of Fidelma Marrinan. Shortly after Mayo referee Garryowen McMahon blew the final whistle.
One thing you can be sure of is the Meath players left nothing on the pitch. They gave 110% right up until the final whistle rang out. They have done themselves, their families, their clubs and their county proud. It’s not every team that has the chance to play in an All Ireland final.
It’s tough now but you can be sure they have learned a great deal from today. They will go forward now as better footballers having learned those lessons.
Anna Branagan Ratoath
Meath: Judy Bobbett, Lauren Kearney, Orlagh Lally, Laura Quinn, Caroline McLoughlin Quinn (1-0), Katie Newe, Laoise McDermott, Anna Branagan (0-2), Rachel Troy, Tara Fay, Lauryn Grier (2-01), Niamh Cassidy, Aoibhin Cleary, Sarah Lynch (0-3), Ailbhe Leahy.
Subs: Abbie Timmons for Leahy, Tara Berigan (1-1) for Fay, Paula Dorian for Lynch.
Clare: Micaela Glynn, Sarah Marrinan, Kate Dillon, Aine Keane, Amanda Mulcair, Aisling Morrissey, Anna Courtney, Tara Kelly, Caoimhe Harvey, Fidelma Marrinan, Lizzy Roche, Eimear Keane, Ciara Hickey, Hannah Meaney, Catriona Callinan.