Walking on air. Aoife Minogue seeks to gain possession as two Dublin players close in. PHOTO: DAVID MULLEN/WWW.CYBERIMAGES.NET

Dublin spoil Nelson's first competitive outing as Meath manager

During their NFL Div 1 game at DCU St Clare's ground this evening Meath had possibly the two best known watergirls in the business carrying out their duties.

Vikki Wall - or "Victoria" as new Meath manager Davy Nelson referred to her afterwards - and Emma Duggan could be seen going on at least once to deliver a refreshing drink to their colleagues on the pitch.

Wall is set to return to Australia before travelling back to rejoin the Meath camp later in the spring while Duggan is carrying a muscle injury that should be cleared up soon.

Meath could have done with them on the pitch as players particularly in the second-half when they went chasing the game.

They could have done with the kind of drive and quality they always bring to the table. Such qualities would have helped their side find a way past a watertight Dublin defence that was a major foundation stone of the home team's 1-11 to 0-8 victory.

Many spectators were surprised that the game was fixed for DCU's ground where there is good floodlights but limited parking and no stand. It was a real blessing that the dark clouds that hung overhead didn't deposit any rain because it would have made it a miserable evening indeed for the exposed spectators.

Surely, some observers wondered, a game of this stature, featuring the reigning league champions could have been played at a more salubrious venue. Parnell Park it seems wasn't playable but it could have been moved to Pairc Tailteann could it not and Dublin get the next two home games? Seemingly not so we ended up at Dublin's training venue.

Manager Nelson would have preferred to have marked his first competitive game as manager with a win but he won't be too downhearted with the defeat either.

In the lead up to the game manager Nelson had made it known that the NFL campaign would be partly about trying out new players and combinations and he was as good as his word with players such as the Navan O'Mahonys contingent of Olivia Callan, Orlaith Mallon and Ailbhe Leahy getting the opportunities to show what they could do. They all got run outs of various lengths.

An interesting inclusion from the start was Meath camogie player Aoife Minogue who featured at midfield, marking display with a series of surging runs. She will have been disappointed to give the ball away and concede free in the closing stages but overall she put in a very strong display and will surely feature prominently this year.

More seasoned regulars such as Shauna Ennis, Niamh Gallogly, Aoibhin Cleary, Megan Thynne and Niamh O'Sullivan. Aine Sheridan (who wore 10 but played as a defender) were others to show up well for the visitors as did Stacey Grimes who topscored with four points. Thynne as ever capped an all-action display with two scores while Meadhbh Byrne and the richly promising youngster Ciara Smyth added one apiece.

Meath never led in this contest. Their cause was seriously undermined by the concession of the only goal of the game scored by the sharp-witted Carla Rowe after just two minutes.

They were behind 0-4 to 1-6 at the interval and while they reduced the deficit to a goal with 56 minutes on the clock they, 1-8 to 0-8, they weren't able to push on. Dublin certainly were and deservedly won firing over the final three points of the game from Chloe Darby, Kerri Owens and Shannon Richardson. Its was game set and match all right.

A goal was what the Royals really needed to boost their hopes during the course of the evening. They went close to finding the net a few times during the lively contest.

Early on the ever watchful Callan unleashed a stinging drive, the ball bouncing back off the bar. Shortly afterwards, on the ninth minute, Smyth looked destined to score.

The Skryne player got the ball after a pitch-length Meath move that included a sublime pass from O'Sullivan. Smyth was only a few metres out and slightly to the right of the posts when she received possession. A goal looked a certainly but a Dublin player was able to clear. Late on Shauna Ennis saw an effort of hers bounce away after hitting the juncture of the post and bar.

All too often Meath moves broke down, victims of Dublin's rock-like defence but the team in green and gold had plenty of possession. They couldn't translate it into scores.

Nelson's team will have learned from this game especially how a side like Dublin are able to close out a game when it really matters.

Dublin - Emer Ni Eafa; Niamh Crowley, Rachel Brennan, Jessica Tobin; Leah Caffrey, Dannielle Lawless, Martha Byrne; Jennifer Dunne (0-1), Eilis O'Dowd; Orlagh Nolan (0-1), Carla Rowe (1-2 one free), Ellen Gribben; Kate Sullivan, Hannah Tyrrell (0-3 two frees), Jodi Egan (0-1). Subs - Emma Deely for Crowley 15 mins, Annabelle Timothy for Egan 36m, Caoimhe O'Connor for Sullivan half-time, Chloe Darby (0-1) for Gribben, Kerri Owens (0-1) for Rowe both 40m, Shannon Richardson (0-1) for Deely 48m, Roisin Baker for Brennan 57m.

Meath - Monica McGuirk; Shauna Ennis, Mary Kate Lynch, Kate Newe; Niamh Gallogly; Aoibhin Cleary, Maire O'Shaughnessy; Aoife Minogue, Olivia Callan; Aine Sheridan, Stacey Grimes (0-4 frees), Niamh O'Sullivan; Megan Thynne (0-2), Meadhbh Byrne (0-1), Ciara Smyth (0-1). Subs - Ailbhe Leahy for Maire O'Shaughnessy 39m, Orlaith Mallon for Callan 40m, Ali Sherlock for Smyth 42m, Oliva Gore for Newe 46m.

Referee - Kevin Phelan (Laois).