Meath Manager Eamonn Murray shakes hands with Orla Byrne as the player makes her way off at Parnell Park on Saturday.

Sweet victory but Meath have room to improve

LADIES SFC ANALYSIS Murray and Grimes reflect on another epic

"They don't don't do things easily, do they?" That question was asked by one Meath supporter who attended Saturday evening's Ladies Leinster SFC game at Parnell Park. He was talking about how Meath looked comfortable at one stage but seemed to lose their way somewhat in the closing stages as the Sky Blues came storming back.

Ahead 1-8 to 0-4 midway through the second-half Eamonn Murray's team were clinging on at the end, yet the manager appeared very content with the team's overall showing - and with good cause.

Okay, the closing stages were far from comfortable for the Meath supporters in the big crowd that showed up for this one. It looked like Dublin might snatch a win just as they did when they sides met in March in the league.

Just like then, Saturday's game was a right old humdinger, the play ebbing and flowing from start to finish. Both sides attacked with purpose but invariably made a load of mistakes as they sought to create something.

On top of the errors there were loads of turnovers, moves that ended up going down cul de sacs. On top of all that the engaging contest was sprinkled with outbreaks of top-quality, classy football. What we didn't get was cynical, roughhouse football and we should be eternally thankful for the absence of all that in the ladies game.

As is always the case when these two teams meet there was no mass rush for the exits before the end. Spectators certainly got their money's worth.

The Meath manager was pleased for all sorts of reasons. There was the victory, of course, made that much sweeter by the fact it was achieved in Dublin's back parlour. There was something else that pleased him. Members of the broader panel, who might not always make the starting team, got some valuable game-time.

"We always wanted to get five subs on against Dublin away so from that point of view it was a good day at the office, very happy." he said as he stood on the Parnell Park pitch afterwards as youngsters swirled around him and the players looking for selfies and autographs. This is a team of the people if there ever was one.

The manager gives the impression that every time he sees his team win he is once more astounded by their commitment, their appetite for victory. Their hunger.

"You could see out there today that they had the hunger, they really wanted to win. We were wondering if they had the hunger and they have. They certainly have the fitness, some of our moves were out of this world, the work-rate.

"Aoibhin Cleary, Mark Kate Lynch, Monica (McGuirk), you could go on. Look at Emma (Troy) what a player, Vikki (Wall) class. Niamh Gallogly came on did a marvellous job, what can I say, young Ciara Smyth caught a great ball at the end. It all adds up and we had no injuries, that was very important. "

Yet despite the win Murray recognised too that the team has work to do if it is to go on and achieve the heroics of last year. He likes to focus on the positives (and maybe that's one of the main reasons why this team is so successful) but he is not deluded either.

The turnovers, the way the team practically conceded the final quarter to Dublin were all recognised by Murray as aspects of the performance that needs to be looked at. "There is a lot of work to do but that's the way we should have it," he added.

He talked of the great buzz that was generated during the game by what seemed hundreds of youngsters with the attendance bulked up by kids from Dublin clubs - and there was some advice from Murray for the Meath men's team when they take on Dublin this Sunday.

"Our players have no fear of Dublin or anybody else and the senior men's team shouldn't have either. You can't have fear playing teams like Dublin. Our players don't have it. I think that comes from defeating them at under-age level."

That issue of appreciating the victory - yet also acknowledging the need to improve constantly and get better - was alluded to also by Stacey Grimes afterwards. Her view highlighted one of the great strengths of this Meath team - their acknowledgment of what is needed to win and willingness to constantly strive for self improvement.

The Seneschalstown player, who works as a Meath LGFA Games Development Officer, made a huge contribution to Saturday's victory, issuing a series of passes that time and again stretched the Dublin defence. She also landed four points from frees.

"We know Dublin are an excellent side so we knew what to expect. We were happy enough with our performances and our win but there's a lot of room for improvement," she added.

"Any game you go out you always want to win but you always want to put in a decent performance as well as win. To play well.

"We are looking forward to getting back to training this week and fixing a few mistakes. Some of our handling, the passing, the shot selection today wasn't what it can be and from my point of view just be a bit more clinical in front of goals. You're always looking to get better and improve on things. The most important thing is that we won.

"You want to try and get on the ball as much as possible, try and influence the game, manage the game, make myself more effective but this is a team game, it's about everyone working together and we do that."

Her words are a blueprint for the success of any football team. This Meath side don't always make it easy for themselves but they invariably win out in the end.