Meath's Aussie adventurers signed off in style as Vikki Wall and Orlagh Lally powered the Royals to a 3-10 to 1-7 win against Kerry as Eamonn Murray’s side defended their All-Ireland Ladies SFC title at Croke Park on Sunday.
Wall and Lally will head to Australia and professional careers in the Aussie Rules game on the back of this second successive title for the new powerhouses of women’s football, but their exit prompted an emotional response from boss Murray.
He was moved to tears as he explained the impact the duo has made on his side during their four-year march to the top of the football tree, and he knows just how much they will be missed next year.
Asked by TG4 after the game about their contribution and the impact of their loss, a visibly emotional Murray said, “Of course I’m disappointed, I’m heartbroken. But I still wish them the best.
“You’d have to get like that, losing players and stuff,” he added. “You’re probably good enough to win three or four in a row, but we won’t. We’ll worry about that next week. It was the perfect send-off, and that’s why it was a bit emotional for us all. It won’t be easy.
“They’ve two All-Irelands in their pocket so they can go with pride, and their heads up. We wish them luck and look forward to them coming back. They will be back, I know they will.”
Lally and Wall are both keen to return to the Meath jersey next season when the Royals chase the three in a row while Lally is with the Freemantle Dockers and Wall is playing for North Melbourne.
“Meath has brought us so much joy. Not only us but our families and friends. The whole county. It’s such a massive part of our lives and this is just a new challenge in Australia for a few months, and we’ll be back wearing the Meath jersey next year,” insisted Lally.
Wall also confirmed that the Aussie offer was too good to turn down and added, “Being involved in such a great group is very tough to leave but it’s a chance of professionalism and a chance to experience new things.”
Meath showed real character to win on Sunday as they came back from conceding an early goal to Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh and two unanswered points in the first eight minutes and scored goals from Emma Troy, Niamh O’Sullivan and Bridgetta Lynch to seal the deal.
“It takes a special bunch to do two in a row,” said manager Murray. “We showed Kerry, and a few other teams, that it can be done. Kerry know all about our system and how we play. Dublin thought the same last year but when you hit this system you know all about it.
“Kerry were held to 1-7 for a long time. You’d never be worried with this bunch, and I mean that. The response was brilliant, three different players scoring goals.”
Kerry will learn from this experience according to joint manager Darragh Long. “It’s very disappointing,” he said. “We came up here full of belief and confidence that we could come away with a victory. We got a fantastic start.
“Then we gave away a silly goal; Emma Troy seems to be our nemesis. We competed really well in the first half, and started the second half quickly. Sloppy mistakes in the first half and second half, stupid turnover ball. Fair play to Meath, they timed their run to perfection. They kicked 3-10 and they’re All-Ireland champions for a reason.
“I’m hugely proud of our girls. We’ve come an awful long way in 12 months, from Mallow last year and a relegation battle. Some of our defenders had quite good games. We had to work really hard for our scores but we weren’t under any illusions that that was going to be the case today the way Meath set up.
“We got some nice turnovers high up the field and we caused them problems when we broke quickly. We weren’t clinical enough in front of goals, which has been a real plus for us over the last five or six games.”
Laois won the intermediate final at Croke Park thanks to a late comeback as they ousted Wexford by 1-13 to 1-11 while Antrim and Fermanagh must meet again after a 1-13 to 1-13 draw in the junior final.
O’Rourke for Meath
Colm O’Rourke has admitted he finally couldn’t find an excuse to take on the Meath senior football manager’s role – with the legendary Sean Boylan set to assist him in an advisory role.
O’Rourke, speaking to his local radio station LMFM, also insisted that age is not a barrier when it comes to working with the best young players in his county.
“There is a bit of ageism in the country and, I think, in GAA circles. People think that when you get to my age that you have run your course,” said O’Rourke, a two-time All-Ireland winner.
“But in America, for example, the coaches in basketball, football and hockey, and things like that, tend to be older people. But not so much in this country. I’ve had an interest in the Meath job because if you have a passion for football and you’ve been involved in management at all the levels that I’ve been involved in – at school, at club and at international rules – it would sort of be an extension of that.
“It wasn’t something that ever kept me awake at night, I suppose. But there comes a time in life to do things, and this seemed to be the right time.”
Call for McGuinness return
All-Ireland winner Anthony Molloy has urged the Donegal County Board to do whatever it takes to appoint former boss Jim McGuinness as successor to Declan Bonner with the county footballers.
“Donegal should move heaven and earth to bring him back. He is still around, and he knows what is going on in the county,” said the 1992 All-Ireland winning captain. “We have a talented bunch of players and Jim would be capable of bringing them to the next level, there is no doubt.
“You only have to look at what he achieved in winning the All-Ireland title in 2012 and we got to another final in 2014. Donegal are still in the top six in the country, but we probably need to unearth another four or five players.
“When Jim took over first, people were saying that there was not much talent in the county and Jim molded his own team and he has the experience and he has been there and done that also.”
Anger over Walsh move
All-Ireland football final star Shane Walsh has confirmed that he wants to move from his Kilkerrin/Clonberne club in Galway to Dublin kingpins Kilmacud Crokes as he continues to study in the capital.
Walsh explained that he was traveling and studying in Dublin. He believes that a move to the Stillorgan club would be a wise move.
"I’m living and studying in Dublin now so it’s the right move for me at this point in my career. Kilmacud Crokes are a great club, and it would be a wonderful challenge," he said.
The 29-year-old is studying for a BA in physical education at Portobello Institute.
“Thanks to John (Divilly, Galway selector) I’ve got a lift from him to training from Dublin a number of times throughout the season but travel certainly takes its toll on the body. I love football and want to keep playing for as long as I can,” Walsh said.
The end of his statement indicates that he will return to Galway one day.
Kilkerrin/Clonberne will start their Galway intermediate championship campaign against Headford on Friday, August 12 at Tuam Stadium and the club are fighting to keep Walsh onboard.
Last week, Kilkerrin-Clonberne chairman Ian Hynes said they were trying to retain the Galway sharpshooter.
“We are absolutely devastated. We have tried to persuade him to stay and nothing has been formally signed yet," Hynes said.
“We are going to fight this all the way. We recognize that Shane has given the club loyal service, but he is such an inspirational figure for all the young players coming through. Everybody here is in shock, particularly the juvenile players because he was such to hero to them.
“We believe it is wrong that a huge club like Kilmacud Crokes are allowed to do this. We are trying to keep the GAA alive in rural Ireland. We have 70 adult members and there are 600 houses in the parish.”
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