Sunday 18 February 2018

Dublin cement superiority

Dublin 3-15
Meath 2-9
Ladies NFL Division 2 Final

Noelle Healy and Ailish McKenna celebrate after Dublin's victory over Meath in the Bord Gais Energy Ladies NFL Division 2 final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Noelle Healy and Ailish McKenna celebrate after Dublin's victory over Meath in the Bord Gais Energy Ladies NFL Division 2 final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

WHILE a 10-point margin between the sides at Portmarnock in March was reduced by just the minimum last Saturday, Meath full-forward Mary Sheridan believes that the gap is closing between the Royals and All-Ireland champions Dublin.

The Royal County gave a much better account of themselves at Parnell Park in the decider and the scene is now set for a championship rematch on July 3.

In the first half, Sheridan saw her goal-bound effort well saved by Dublin's outstanding goalkeeper Cliodhna O'Connor while midfielder Katie O'Brien rattled the opposition crossbar.

The difference was that when goal chances presented themselves to a more clinical Dublin, the Jackies took them.

Sheridan, sister of Meath senior star Joe, agreed: "Dublin scored their chances, we didn't score ours. We got in for a couple but Cliodhna made a couple of good saves. But at least we got them -- it would be different if we weren't getting any. We were there or thereabouts.

"It was a test to see how we improved on Portmarnock. And if we can improve as much in the time we have left before the championship, we can put it up to them again. But they have the confidence of being All-Ireland champions. We have to get to that stage and now, it's a mental thing."

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was Dublin's ace forward Sinead Aherne, who scored nine points. When the team was submitted last Tuesday morning for match programme purposes, last year's All-Ireland senior final player of the match wasn't included as she looked to shrug off an injury.

But at training later that evening, the St Sylvester's star was in the starting line-up and called the tune at Parnell Park as Dublin claimed a second Division 2 title in five seasons. Amy Ring, Olivia Leonard and Lyndsey Davey scored Dublin's goals in this dress rehearsal for the Leinster semi-final as centre-forward Elaine Kelly caught the eye with four brilliant points from play.

But Meath, who trailed by 0-5 to 2-7 at half-time, showed enough flashes of potential to suggest that they can trouble Dublin in less than eight weeks' time.

Centre-forward Geraldine Doherty hit 1-4 from play for the Royal County as corner-forward Vivienne McCormack chipped in with 1-2, the goal coming from a penalty in the 55th minute.

That successful effort cut Dublin's lead to six points, 2-14 to 2-8, but Davey's goal in the 60th minute put the icing on the cake.

Dublin boss Tommy Brown acknowledged that his players are now in a better mental state approaching this year's championship.

Twelve months ago, the metropolitans were smarting, having been relegated from Division 1, but with more silverware tucked away in the cabinet, their tails are firmly up.

Crucially, Dublin's defence, shorn of the entire All-Ireland-winning full-back line, held firm under a Meath aerial onslaught.

"It was going to be a totally different game from Portmarnock and we had to work our socks off to beat Meath," Brown said. "But when you meet a team again, you're going to have to work even harder. Whoever works hardest and smartest over the next eight weeks will win it -- today's match won't matter a jot."

Player of the Match: Sinead Aherne

Scorers -- Dublin: S Aherne 0-9 (6f), E Kelly 0-4, L Davey, O Leonard, A Ring 1-0 each, N Healy, L Peat 0-1 each. Meath: G Doherty 1-4, V McCormack 1-2 (1-0 pen), K O'Brien, F Mahon (1f), E Duffy (1f), 0-1 each.

DUBLIN -- C O'Connor 8; S Goldrick 8, J O'Sullivan 7, A McKenna 7; G Fay 7, S Furlong 7, S McGrath 7; D Masterson 7, N McEvoy 6; L Davey 6, E Kelly 8, N Healy 6; S Aherne 9, O Leonard 6, A Ring 6. Subs: L Peat 7 for McEvoy (33), M Nevin for Leonard (36), S Woods for Ring (53), G O'Malley for McKenna (60+1), S McEvoy for Goldrick (60+4).

MEATH -- I Munnelly 7; K Allen 6, E Rahill 6, A Murray 6; O Sheridan 6, S Bennett 6, B Lynch 6; K O'Brien 7, F Mahon 6; G Nulty 6, G Doherty 8, E Duffy 6; J Rispin 6, M Sheridan 7, V McCormack 7. Subs: C O'Shaughnessy 6 for Duffy (h-t), A Carolan 6 for Rispin (50), P Sheridan for Rahill (60+2).

Ref -- MJ O'Keeffe (Cork).

Irish Independent

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