The outcome of the battle between Meath’s All-star full-back Mary Kate Lynch and Kerry sensation Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh could be key to Saturday’s Ladies All-Ireland SFC quarter-final in Tralee. Photo: John Quirke /

Renewed rivalry could swing Meath’s way again

In the lads game the Meath Kerry thing is more of a novelty than a rivalry, one where the Royals accept they are second best and hope to put up a brave fight, but it's a whole different story in Ladies Football.

Meath against Kerry in recent years has developed into a serious, title-deciding battle of wits, wisdom, commitment and no small amount of skill.

The recent rivalry started in the Royals favour in 2021 with victory over the Kingdom in the 2021 NFL Div 2 final by 2-16 to 1-9, a comprehensive win that secured Meath's place in the top flight of the league.

Kerry had won the group stage game in Navan with six points to spare the previous May, but when it came to the crunch Meath held the upper hand.

The rivalry was renewed again in 2022, this time on the biggest stage of them all when Meath clinched their second successive Brendan Martin Cup with a stunning 3-10 to 1-8 All-Ireland SFC final victory at Croke Park.

It was certainly advantage Meath at that stage of the newly minted rivalry.

However, then things started to change.

Meath's change of management and loss of key players such as Vikki Wall, Emma Troy, Shauna Ennis, Aoibheann Leahy, Bridgetta Lynch, Kelsey Nesbitt brought them back into the pack and offered others hope - including Kerry.

A dismal NFL Div 1 campaign in 2023 included a 0-9 to 1-18 drubbing by Kerry in Brosna, but Meath managed to survive in Div 1 mainly due to Mary Kate Lynch's winning goal in Donegal and a 0-9 each draw with Galway.

Meath and Kerry clashed again for the fifth time in three years and the second time in the championship when they also met in last year's All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals where goals proved decisive in awful conditions as Kerry prevailed by 2-8 to 0-10.

This year the sides met for a sixth time in four years when Kerry once again coasted to a 1-15 to 1-5 win in Ashbourne.

The Kingdom have won four of those six recent meetings and appear to hold the upperhand on the Royals, but when it came down to the crunch in their three BIG clashes over those years, Meath won two of them to clinch the NFL Div 2 title and the All-Ireland SFC crown.

No one is expecting anything other than another Kerry win in Tralee next Saturday, no one that is except those in the Meath camp.

Kerry were impressive in their 4-13 to 0-9 win over Waterford, but their opening round draw with Donegal (0-9 to 1-6) was far from imposing.

Meath ran Armagh close in their opening round loss, and showed massive further improvement to beat a talented Tipperary side more comfortably than the 2-15 to 2-12 scoreline suggests, a Tipperary side that had drawn with Armagh a week earlier.

Kerry were beaten in this year's Ladies NFL Div 1 final by Armagh, so the formbook certainly suggests a very tight game in Tralee next Saturday and one not to be missed.

Marion Farrelly is enjoying a rejuvenated career in the green and gold and was the star of Meath's win over Tipperary. Other mainstays like Maire O'Shaughnessy, Megan Thynne, Katie Newe, Aoibhin Cleary and Emma Duggan are also key to any possible Meath success.

The influx of new players has certainly added fresh impetus to the Royals ranks, Nicole Troy has fitted into the defence seemlessly, minor captain Kerrie Cole has come into the side and been excellent, while Ciara Smyth is fulfilling her promise as one of the best young players in the county.

One of the key duels on Saturday will be the battle between Mary Kate Lynch and Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh.

The Kerry player is a generational player, one of the all-time greats, but Lynch has been the outstanding defender in the country on a consistent basis for four years.

If the Meath full-back can negate the attacking threat of Ni Mhuircheartaigh then the Royals will be one giant step closer towards a shock win.

Kerry have plenty of other threats too like Hannah O'Donoghue, Danielle O'Leary and Siofra O'Shea, but there was a spark lit under Meath in Pairc Tailteann against Tipperary and if that flame continues to burn them the Royals might return home with a very significant scalp on Saturday.