2016-06-22 01:37:00

TG4 Leinster Senior Championship: Round Two
Meath v Laois
Sunday 12th June at 3.20pm
Stradbally GFC

Half Time; Meath 0-07, Laois 1-02
Full Time: Meath 2-09, Laois 3-06

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Today in a rain-swept Stradbally GAA, the Meath Senior Ladies took a massive step forward. While they didn’t get the result they wanted, they outperformed their opponents and fought tooth and nail for every ball despite the inclement conditions. Leading by two at the break, the home side scored late to seal a draw in the Leinster SFC.
Laois were first to chalk up a point on the scoreboard, Aine Haberlin pointing in the opening minute. This was cancelled out on five minutes as Niamh O’Sullivan split the posts. O’Sullivan produced a top drawer performance including six points and was a thorn in the sides of the Laois defence all afternoon. Emma White, in only her second Senior performance, coolly slotted over a free on seven mins to double the Royals lead. With Niamh Lister controlling matters in the centre of the field and Paula Dunne rock solid in the defence, the Royals pushed on and O’Sullivan and White each split the posts to force the Royals into a 0-04 to 0-01 lead after ten minutes. Meath defence coped well with the early home pressure but a foul judged to have occurred in the square saw Laois awarded a penalty which was duly converted by Laois Captain Aileen O’Loughlin on twelve minutes to set the sides level once more. O’Sullivan pointed on 15 minutes to push the Royals into the lead again and with the sublime Shauna Ennis in top form, Meath pushed on and were unlucky not to get their opening goal as Catríona Keogan’s effort was pushed out for a ’45. The teams swapped scores on 21 mins with the industrious O’Sullivan pointing for the Royals after great work from Niamh Gallogly and Vikki Wall. Meath lost Julie Donnellan to the sin bin on 23 mins and coped admirably with the setback, Aoibhín Cleary, Elaine Plunkett and Aideen Guy standing strong to the Laois attacks. Indeed it was Meath who had the final say of the half, a ball won by Vikki Wall in the centre of the field set up an exchange between O’Sullivan and Ennis and it was the Na Fianna player that finished with aplomb, just over the top of the crossbar to leave the Royals two points to the good at half time.
Half Time: Meath 0-07, Laois 1-02.
The second half was a much tighter affair, Laois sending out a signal of intent, hitting two points early in the second half to level the scoreboard. A foul on Donnellan on 38 mins put the Royals a point in front once more as O’Sullivan converted the resulting free. Heading into the final third of the game, Royal tails were up and were rewarded as a surging run from Shauna Ennis ended with last year’s U21 Captain hitting the back of the net on 39 mins. O’Sullivan pointed once more, her sixth of the contest, to stretch the lead to five. Minutes later, and Meath were eight to the good, a ball won by Julie Donnellan was fed to Vikki Wall and the Dunboyne player made no mistake with the finish, burying the ball past Ciamh Dollard in the Laois nets. With the game ebbing and flowing, Meath were forced into a blood substitution as Niamh Lister was nursing a bloody nose. Her replacement, Laura Gilsenan was only on the pitch and making her first challenge that was deemed too tough and she too saw yellow, Meath down to 14 for the second time in the game. With Lister receiving treatment on the line, Laois pushed on, hitting two points to leave them six points adrift. Luckily Lister was deemed fit to play and returned to the action, Catriona Keogan making way for Lister. As full time approached, Laois launched their attacks and O’Loughlin and Simms found their mark deep into injury time to level the game out. Making her championship debut and returning from the sin bin, Laura Gilsenan did go agonisingly close to hitting a third goal for the Royals at the very end of the contest but the Laois defence and both uprights denied the Clann na nGael player the fairytale ending that the Royals deserved. It ended all square in Stradbally, Meath still waiting for a win in the Leinster Championship.
Full Time; Meath 2-09, Laois 3-06.
This was a vastly improved performance by the young Royals. In 2015, the Royals were beaten by 5-10 to 0-08 in the same corresponding fixture in Walterstown. Earlier in this year’s Division Two League, Meath were overcome by 3-08 to 0-09 against the same opposition, and today they stood tall and strong and were unlucky in some respects not to come away with all three points. With players opting to go to the States for the summer, Meath Seniors have been working hard to improve their performance, and this was especially evident against a talented Laois side this afternoon, despite the wet conditions. From Louise Dunne in goals, right up to the full forward line, the Royals gave the game everything they had and will take away many lessons from today’s fixture. They will need to learn their lessons quite quick though with round three of the Championship hot on the heels of round two, a home game against Dublin next Saturday. 
Meath v Dublin rivalries are games to cherish as the proverbial rule book goes out the window. Next weekend the two counties will face each other on three different occasions. On Saturday in Summerhill at 2pm, the Senior Ladies will take on last year’s Leinster Champions. On Sunday, while the Meath men take on their counterparts from the Capital at Croker, the Meath U16s will go toe to toe with their Dublin rivals in the Leinster U16 A Final in Clane from 3:15pm. Peter Byrne’s charges are currently unbeaten in this year’s competition making this Leinster Final all the more intriguing! However, one thing is for sure, all three teams will leave no stone unturned in their quest for victory.
Meath Team & Scorers: Louise Dunne, Aoibhín Cleary, Paula Dunne (C), Aideen Guy, Elaine Plunkett, Shauna Ennis (1-01), Kate Lawless, Niamh Lister, Vikki Wall (1-00), Emma White (0-02, 1f)), Niamh O'Sullivan (0-06, 2f), Niamh Gallogly, Ailbhe McHugh, Catriona Keogan, Julie Donnellan.
Subs: Jenny Rispin for McHugh (HT), Orla Byrne for Guy (HT), Stacey Grimes for Lawless (38 mins), Laura Gilsenan for Lister (blood sub), Laura Gilsenan for Keogan (54 mins), Niamh O’Kelly-Lynch, Natalie Davitt, Ray Lawless.
Laois: C. Dollard, A. Loughman, J. Moore, M. Kirwan, A. Haberlin, L. Nerney, A. Moore, F. Dooley, J. Dunne, A. Kirrane, A. Potts, M. Murphy, C. Simms, M. Dunne, A. O’Loughlin.
Referee: Jonathan Murphy (Carlow)