Heroes... Meath players celebrating winning the All-Ireland Senior Women’s Final. Photo: John Quirke / www.quirke.ie

Conor Martin: A golden year for Meath Football

So here I go jumping on the bandwagon. I must confess right away that I have looked at very little ladies’ football up to this year’s All-Ireland Final between Meath & Dublin.

I’ve always preferred to play sport rather than watch it and I’m not one for sitting down watching a TV screen much anyway.

What caught my attention most while watching that final was the organised team work on display from that Meath team. While discussing the game with a father of one of the All-Ireland panellists last week, he described it perfectly as ‘sustained intensity’. For anyone who’s played any sport at a high level, you will understand how difficult it is to sustain that effort required to grind down your opponent(s) for the full term of the contest. It brought back wonderful memories for many Meath people from the 1980’s and 1990’s when Meath football teams always displayed relentless resilience when facing any opponent.

What these ladies and their management team achieved over the course of the last few years is nothing short of remarkable. If the same rise to the top in such a short few year was achieved by a professional sports team on the world stage then we would still be reading about it in media all over the world. I’ll predict now that it won’t be their last All-Ireland title.

Our Meath Minor team of course, also won the All-Ireland this year for the first time since the early 1990’s which places 2021 as one of the finest in Meath football’s history. I am lucky enough to have won an All-Ireland Minor football title in 1990 under a brilliant management team led by Paul Kenny. He said to us that evening after we lifted the Tom Markham cup that our lives would never be the same again.

Meath goalkeeper Conor Martin about to send out a pass as Jason Sherlock and Pat Gilroy challenge. Photo: John Quirke / www.quirke.ie Photo by John Quirke

I remember thinking to myself that this statement seemed a little over the top, but Paul was spot on. When you win an All-Ireland title for your county you are elevated to a special status within your own county and the GAA community.

People look up to you both on & off the field. I think this only became apparent to me as I got older and could appreciate it more from a distance. Our 2021 All-Ireland winning teams will discover gradually how special it is what they achieved when the dust settles.

Now back to that relentless resilience and how that will stand to each and every one of those players for the rest of their lives. Sport is an amazing character builder, particularly team sports, I think. To be part of a link in a chain that strives for sporting perfection requires endless hours of hard work and determination. The majority of supporters will never know how difficult it is to keep on pushing your body & mind alongside your team mates to ensure you go beyond your comfort zone every evening in training. The sacrifices to lifestyle, diet, social life & family are massive and it’s not a path for everyone.

However, the rewards are for a lifetime, mentally & physically and will sustain our 2021 winners in their careers & personal lives from here onwards. Nobody can take that mental stubbornness away from them that money cannot buy. Congratulations again to all involved!

Conor Martin is the author of the Nest Egg column which appears every week in the Meath Chronicle. Conor can be contacted at conor@tarafinancial..com