TG4 Player of the Match Niamh O’Sullivan celebrates with her Dad John, fiance Paul Walsh and Mum Mary O’Sullivan.

ALL-IRELAND SFC FINAL REVIEW O'Sullivan savours the sweet moment of success


The Meath players lingered for a long time on the pitch after the hooter sounded to end Sunday's All-Ireland SFC showdown with Kerry - and who could blame them? They went around waving and talking to supporters, savouring the moment, taking it all in.

It was another indication of the close bond between the Meath followers and this team. People of the county have taken them to their hearts appreciative of the pride they have brought; a certain joie de vivre to counteract all the talk of the rising cost of living and terrible wars in far-off lands that few can do much about.

Niamh O'Sullivan was one of those that lingered on Croke Park's green carpet but afterwards she took time out to talk to reporters outside the Meath dressing room. With players bound for Aussie Rules there was a feeling that this was the end of an era. The conclusion of a golden spell in Meath ladies football never seen before.

O'Sullivan however, insisted Meath can continue their run of success even thought they are to losing, for the immediate future at least, some of their top players Down Under including Vikki Wall and Orlagh Lally.

"Oh yeah 100 per cent that's why you have 38 girls in the panel, there were eight girls there today who didn't get named on the panel, young girls, the likes of Orlaith Mallon, Ciara Gilsenan," the Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels player said.

"It's important we stick together because you can see it on the pitch that this is a very close group, we met up outside of football as well. There are going to be changes, sure, although we won't focus on that just yet."

In the lead up to Sunday's final rumours also abounded about changes in the management structure, people moving on.

O'Sullivan didn't allow that or, it seems, anything else distract her from the final, perhaps one of the main reasons why she gave a five-star, full-on display. Why she won the 'Player of the Match' award. "I don't know anything about that myself, any article I saw this week I didn't read it, my focus was mainly on the match today.

"I think it's important we go off and enjoy this, especially a two in a row. Who would have thought we would have won two-in-a-row? I don't think we are going to focus on next year just yet, we're going to go back to Trim and the homecoming in Navan. We didn't get a homecoming last year because of Covid so we're really buzzing for that.

"It's still not sinking that we have won, there were a few of us still out on the pitch trying to embrace it, seeing our family afterwards, they are always sticking behind us supporting us the length and breath of the country but to feel the extra support there today was fantastic, it will take a few days, if not months, for it all to sink in really."

O'Sullivan paid tribute to others who played their parts in carving out this historic victory - the Meath management. There was manager Eamonn Murray of course, the maor foirne Paul Garrigan, physio Hayley Clarke, doctor John Peters, liaison officer Michelle Grimes and mentors Irene Munnelly, Mark Brennan, Eugene Eivers, Shane Wall and Stephen Maxwell.

She paid tribute to their hard work and how they had prepared the players for the storm Kerry were sure to whip up which they did - at least in the opening stages of the game.

"We don't panic, we knew they would watch us, watch individual players, study us inside out and as All-Ireland champions you have to be ready for that. Paul, Shane and Mark had the tactics spot on, the amount of work they have put in this year is absolutely second to none and the swing comes down to a lot of their work behind the scenes.

"They come to training but they are on the phone constantly to each other 24/7 and we are so blessed to have them all as part of the management team. Resilience is a big part of this team, we don't panic and we stick to the game-plan no matter what. We did that today."

Certainly the players' fitness and conditioning was exceptional. They looked like they could run for another year in the sultry conditions.

There was someone else who O'Sullivan namechecked specifically, psychologist Kelley Fay. She spoke about how Fay worked with the players and got them in the right "head-space". How it was all so crucial.

"As Shauna (Ennis) said to us this week even winning an All-Ireland, coming off the high of doing that, is mentally draining but thankfully Kelley had our heads right going into every game this year and we appreciate all the work she did with us."

It's little wonder then, considering all the thought, the hard graft that went into winning the Brendan Martin Cup that the players lingered on the pitch soaking it all up - along with the supporters. Their people. Their tribe.