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Brown: We’ll lift our spirits

THERE was no guard of honour for the All-Ireland champions in Portmarnock last Sunday. Meath had their own Royal welcome planned.

They brought so much zest to the stage. They were supremely fit. They were blocking and tackling all afternoon.

Their industry and desire was just so admirable. And nobody was begrudging them their 0-10 to 0-9 victory in the Leinster Senior Championship semi-final.

The sun blazed down on Mearnóg, yet the breeze was tricky enough. There was a decent crowd on the bank. They were treated to a cracking spectacle.

“It was probably exciting for the spectators but not for us on the sideline,” reflected Dublin manager, Tommy Brown.

“I’d rather win a dull game than lose an exciting one. It was a tough match and we came out on the wrong side of it.

“The bottom line is that we lost. We are all disappointed. We’ll be hurting for a few days.”

So will the bodies of both sides. It was a rattler. The teams were level six times. And it wasn’t decided until three minutes into injury-time when Ger Doherty sent over the winner.

Doherty was some sub to spring from the bench. She only entered the action with 13 minutes left, but she contributed three priceless points.

Meath finished the day as they had started it – on a mission. They might have won by more if they had taken all their second-half chances.

Only two minutes into the restart, Shauna Bennett, on the right of the posts, found herself with a clear view of the Dublin dartboard, but her shot sped inches wide.

Dublin had to graft for every crumb. Right corner-back, Sinead Goldrick, had a stormer. Gemma Fay did her best to carry the game to Meath from deep.

Denise Masterson was as composed as an ice-cube, and anytime Sinead Aherne gained possession, all the lights in the Meath jukebox lit up.

But Meath were doing a Tony Christie on it – cutting off every avenue and alleyway. Dublin hadn’t faced such a severe test since their All-Ireland semi-final triumph over Laois in Dr Cullen Park last season.

The Jackies trailed at the break, 0- 5 to 0-4. The tie had been level four times. Elaine Kelly, Amy Ring and Aherne (two) were on target for the Blues.

Early in the second period, Meath extended their advantage to three points following efforts from Elaine Duffy (free) and captain, Grainne Nulty. Returns from Lyndsey Peat and Aherne (two) tied it up again in the 48th minute. The dazzling Doherty then struck twice as the atmosphere sizzled in the heat.

The hosts had no intention of letting their Leinster title go. Aherne’s free and Kelly’s elegant, angled shot from the right brought parity once more, 0-9 apiece.

This was drama of the highest order. Five minutes from time, Peat found herself in space. She struck the shot well but Irene Munnelly made a magnificent save.

People began to mention extratime, but Meath, showing patience and superb ball handling skills, worked one last opening which Doherty, out on the right, curled between the posts with all the swagger of Graham Geraghty.

Now the holders have to lift themselves off the floor. “It’s the qualifiers for us now,” said Tommy Brown. “We’ll take the lessons from this and get back up on the horse again.