Meath's Rachel O'Neill cleverly clips the ball way from Kerry's Ellen O'Donoghue during today's All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship clash at Rathmolyon.

Royals hit back to win 'all or nothing' contest

Offaly up next for Gary Cole's side in the quarter-finals



Before this All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie encounter got underway today at Rathmolyon there was much discussion among some of those who were present about how this was "a win or burst game" for Meath. A classic "all or nothing" encounter.

Those phrases were very apt. It was indeed a game the home side couldn't afford to lose. Previous results had ensured this was a real "do or die" championship game for both teams.

That reality helped to ensure that what was served up was a real humdinger of a contest played at real championship pace.

Every loose ball was fought for like there was no tomorrow. It was a contest that held no refuge for the faint-hearted, the less than committed.

Once again the pitch in Rathmolyon was in pristine condition, like a green carpet under a beautiful blue sky. The sunshine that beamed down helped to create the ideal conditions and the players used the surface as a canvas to weave some pretty patterns of play.

Meath won in the end (ensuring a place in the quarter-finals against Offaly) but it was a victory dug out of granite, the hard way. Everything had to be earned the hard way.

Kerry, travelled up in a coach that morning, and maybe, just maybe, the long journey left it harder for them to get into the game.

Maybe that viewpoint takes something away from Meath's determination to make their mark in this game because they started like a steam train behind schedule. They led 1-1 to 0-0 after six minutes. Ellen Burke neatly floated over an early point before the opening goal of the afternoon was struck by Amy Gaffney.

It was a fine individual score - and a reward for the Ratoath player's courageous willingness to take on her opponents. Gaffney won the ball out on the right wing. She switched on the after-burners, sped past one or two opponents and fired the ball to the net. Aoife Carey added another point soon after and Meath were on their way.

Then, Royals lost their way, their growing vulnerability highlighted in the way they conceded a goal on 12 minutes, Amy O'Sullivan firing home after a goalmouth scramble.

Encouraged, a rejuvenated Kerry pushed on to control matters with O'Sullivan bagging an even softer goal soon after. During that opening half the Royals endured a 15 minute barren spell. By the interval the Kingdom were 2-3 to 1-4 in front and looking good.

Whatever was said at the interval in the Meath dressingroom had the desired effect. They came out a team transformed and produced arguably their best 10, 15 minute of hurling so far this year. They were brilliant, at once composed, creative, clinical. Sweetly taken scores from play by Olivia O'Halloran, Gaffney and Tracy King were augmented by three superbly hit frees from Ciara Foley, who strikes the ball with such assurance.

With just 10 minutes played in the second-half the home team had not only regained the initiative in general play, they had surged back in front, 1-10 to 2-3 - where they stayed. Sure, Kerry fashioned a third goal from Patrice Diggin on 44 minutes but the well-organsied, relentlessly grafting home rearguard were in no mood to concede any more majors.

Meath's second goal on 46 minutes went a long way to securing the win. It was the product of hard graft and high skill. Leah Devine tenaciously won the ball and kicked a pass to Burke. She, in turn, fed Foley who did the rest. The net danced and Kerry were in trouble.

Gaffney also had a stinging shot superbly saved by Kerry's Aoife Fitzgerald. The home team also hit 12 wides, something that will surely concern the management team of Gary Cole, Thomas Moloney and Neil Heffernan.

Meath's victory was based on a fine team effort but there were some high-quality displays most notably from Aine McNerney, Gaffney, Claire Coffey, Rachel O'Neill, Devine and O'Halloran.

Meath push on to the quarter-finals and that clash with the Faithful County.


Meath - Ciara Foley 1-4 three frees, one 45; Oliva O'Halloran 0-3; Amy Gaffney 1-2; Aoife Carey 0-1; Ellen Burke 0-1, Tracy King 0-1.

Kerry - Amy O'Sullivan 2-1; Patrice Diggin 1-2; Kate Lynch 0-1, Niamh Callard 0-1.


Meath - Maggie Randle; Sophia Payne, Claire Coffey, Rachel O'Neill; Leah Devine, Maeve Clince, Aine McNerney; Erin Leddy, Tracy King; Aoibhinn Lally, Amy Gaffney, Aoife Carey; Olivia O'Halloran, Ciara Foley, Ellen Burke. Subs - Grace Connolly for Lally half-time, Emma Hannifin for Carey 49m.

Kerry - Aoife Fitzgerald; Rachel McCarthy, Niamh Leen, Michelle Costello; Roisin Quinn, Sara Murphy, Aoife Behan; Caoimhe Spillane, Patrice Diggin; Laura Collins, Kate Lynch, Ann Marie Leen; Amy O'Sullivan, Jackie Horgan, Ellen O'Donoghue. Subs - Ruth O'Connor for Lynch 35m, Ciara O'Sullivan for Costello 40m, Niamh Quinn for Collins 45m, Amy McCarthy for Leen 57m.

Referee - Karl Collins (Galway).