Superb second half sees Meath seal back-to-back All-Ireland Ladies SFC titles

Superb second half sees Meath seal back-to-back All-Ireland Ladies SFC titles

MEATH overcame a sluggish start to seal a second consecutive All-Ireland Ladies SFC title with a 3-10 to 1-7 victory over Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday.

The Kingdom were quickest out of the traps, hitting 1-2 without reply after eight minutes.

However, Meath soon levelled before turning the game on its head, going in at half-time three points to the good.

Emma Duggan of Meath in action against Kayleigh Cronin and Aishling O'Connell of Kerry (Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Kerry again opened the scoring after the interval and soon cut the gap to one, but two quick goals from Meath as the game headed into the final quarter effectively ended the contest.

The win caps a remarkable couple of years for Meath since they won the Division 3 title in 2019.

They followed that up with the Intermediate Championship in 2020.

When the National League returned in 2021 after Covid-19, they won the Division 2 title before a first All-Ireland Ladies SFC title last September.

Now, they have added a second Senior Championship title to complement June’s Division 1 success.

Niamh O'Sullivan celebrates after scoring a point (Image: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Speaking to TG4 after the game, goalscorer Niamh O'Sullivan said they were prepared to 'stand up and fight' against 11-time winners Kerry.

"It's just amazing to see everyone out here today supporting the ladies, just amazing to see the green and gold flying high in Croke Park, I just can’t believe it," she said.

“We knew coming up here today that Kerry is a football county, they’ve great players and we knew it was going to be a hard game.

"They threw everything at us but us Meath women know how to stand up and fight and we surely did that today."

Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh celebrates after scoring Kerry’s goal (Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Kerry looked like ending their near-three decade wait for a title as they stormed into the lead, scoring 1-2 without reply inside eight minutes.

Clare Murphy fired over the opening point before Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh hit 1-1 to leave Meath stunned.

However, Meath levelled within five minutes, points from Stacey Grimes and Vikki Wall coming either side of an Emma Troy goal following a great team move.

Meath’s Emma Troy shoots to score her side's first goal (Image: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

They kept the momentum going as they hit four further points without reply — Walls (2), Grimes and Troy again on target — to lead 1-6 to 1-2 after 20 minutes.

Kerry stemmed the tide with a point from Síofra O'Shea, their first score for 15 minutes,

It remained nip and tuck until the break, with Meath holding a three-point lead at the interval, 1-8 to 1-5.

Kerry opened the scoring after the break, O'Shea capitalising on a poor kick out from goalkeeper Monica McGuirk, while a Ní Mhuircheartaigh free cut the gap to one.

Síofra O'Shea of Kerry is tackled by Mary Kate Lynch of Meath (Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Emma Duggan restored Meath's two-point advantage, her free making it 1-9 to 1-7 after 35 minutes, but substitutions for both sides slowed the game somewhat.

Neither side troubled the scoreboard again until the game entered the final quarter, when Meath broke the deadlock — and Kerry hearts — in emphatic fashion.

First, O'Sullivan fired into the net on 45 minutes after getting on the end of Grimes' pass.

Three minutes later, Bridgetta Lynch made it 3-9 to 1-7, reacting quickest to fire home after her initial effort struck the bar.

Bridgetta Lynch scores Meath’s third (Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Kerry battled to find a way back into the game after that double blow but it was Meath who had the final say, O'Sullivan firing over in the dying minutes to seal a 3-10 to 1-7 victory.

Eamonn Murray, who has overseen the Royals' success since being appointed manager in April 2017, said it was'‘amazing' to seal back-to-back titles.

"We worried about Kerry scoring goals but we were the team scoring goals, three outstanding goals," he told TG4.

"For us to do this, to win in style today, was amazing."

Meath manager Eamonn Murray celebrates after his side's All-Ireland victory (Image: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)