A STEEP learning curve is in the offing for the new look NFL and All-Ireland champions on the evidence of this opening round Lidl Division 1 league campaign at St Clare’s DCU last Saturday evening.
his was the fifth meeting between the counties since Meath’s emergence as a force at this level and Dublin’s six points margin of victory was the biggest since the start of the latest rivalry.
The scoreline was somewhat harsh on Meath who had the deficit down to three points on two different occasions in the final quarter. However, Dublin finished much the stronger with three late scores to leave them deserving winners but slightly flattered by the margin of victory.
Manager Davy Nelson and his backroom team were seeking to mark their first competitive outing with a win but they were up against a more streetwise Dublin. The late additions of Stacey Grimes and Niamh O’Sullivan brought the starting line up to nine from the team that took to the field for the All-Ireland final against Kerry. This duo added experience to an experimental attack who found life difficult against a well-organised and solid Dublin rearguard.
Overall, the Meath attack got little exchange from their opposite numbers and when they threatened a revival in the closing stages Dublin resorted to fouling to break up their momentum.
It wasn’t that Meath hadn’t the fair share of possession. They enjoyed long spells of dominance after making a very shaky start to proceedings during which Dublin struck for vital scores to build up a match winning lead.
Meath were always chasing the game after the concession of a second minute goal, finished to the net by Carla Rowe following good work by Orlagh Nolan and Hannah Tyrell. The visitors were working the ball out of defence when a stray pass allowed the Dubs to pounce.
It was a nervous start from Meath but they had their opening score from newcomer Ciara Smyth on five minutes. Meath tested the woodwork after that and Smyth had a goal effort cleared off the line on nine minutes. Dublin were more prolific in attack as they built up a 1-3 to 0-1 lead following points from Rowe (free), Tyrrell and Jodi Egan.
Meath continued to enjoy good possession but they had to wait until the 23rd minute for their next score from Megan Thynne. Meadhbh Byrne registered another score but at half-time Dublin enjoyed a 1-5 to 0-3 advantage.
Orlagh Nolan and Tyrrell (free) stretched the Dublin lead by the 38th minute before Megan Thynne had her second point for Meath’s only score from play in the second half.
Stacey Grimes showed good accuracy from frees throughout the half but Meath never threatened the goal needed to give themselves a chance of victory.
Dublin were content to pick off scores on the counter attack and stop Meath by fair or foul means in a stop-start final quarter. Twice Grimes reduced the deficit to three points but substitutes proved their worth for the hosts in the closing minutes as Chloe Darby, Kerri Owens and Shannon Richardson hit unanswered points in the final four minutes.
DUBLIN: Emer Ni Eafa; Niamh Crowley, Rachel Brennan, Jessica Tobin; Leah Caffrey, Dannielle Lawless, Martha Byrne; Jennifer Dunne 0-1, Eilis O’Dowd; Orlagh Nolan 0-1, Carla Rowe 1-2 (1 f), Ellen Gribben; Kate Sullivan, Hannah Tyrrell 0-3 (2f), Jodi Egan 0-1. Subs: Emma Deeley for Crowley (15), Caoimhe O’Connor for Sullivan (HT), Annabelle Timothy for Egan (36), Chloe Darby 0-1 for Gribben, Kerri Owens 0-1 for Rowe (both 40), Shannon Richardson 0-1 for Deeley (48), Roisín Baker for Brennan (57).
MEATH: Monica McGuirk; Shauna Ennis, Mary Kate Lynch, Kate Newe; Niamh Gallogly; Aoibhin Cleary, Áine Sheridan; Máire O’Shaughnessy, Aoife Minogue; Olivia Callan, Stacey Grimes 0-4 (4f), Niamh O’Sullivan; Megan Thynne 0-2, Meadhbh Byrne 0-1, Ciara Smyth 0-1. Subs: Ailbhe Leahy for O’Shaughnessy (39), Orlaith Mallon for Callan (40), Ali Sherlock for Smyth (42), Olivia Gore for Newe (46).
REFEREE: Kevin Phelan (Laois).