THE SCENES AT the final whistle said it all.
Celebrations in full flow.
Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE
It was a stark contrast to the past two September decider defeats as Meath made sure it was a case of third time lucky in the All-Ireland intermediate final, beating Westmeath on a scoreline of 2-17 to 4-5.
Máire O’Shaughnessy climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand to lift the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup was a long time in the making, and her emotional speech summed the journey up perfectly.
As did the words of manager Éamonn Murray.
“We worked damn hard for it,” he told RTÉ Sport. “What more could you ask for today? The only disappointment I have is that the parents can’t be here, all our families. This is the best day of my life. 15 years with Meath and this is my biggest day, by a mile.”
One of @meathladiesMLGF's most loyal servants, Eamonn Murray was a proud man after their intermediate victory on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/IsBfoJSkaU
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) December 20, 2020
One family affair in particular caught the eye on the pitch as the Wall sisters, Vikki and Sarah, experienced mixed fortunes. Sarah, the younger of the pair, saw her afternoon cruelly ended in the opening 10 minutes, while Vikki went on to produce a Player of the Match winning performance and finish up with 1-3.
As the emotion took over at the final whistle, the sisters shared a lovely moment together on the sideline before Vikki piggy-backed Sarah towards the jubilant celebrations on the pitch.
It was a rollercoaster match for Vikki, that’s for sure, with a her outstanding goal coming just after Sarah was helped off the field as she inspired her side to victory before being shown a dubious yellow card in the dying seconds.
With the game long over at that stage, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was winning, and of course, Sarah.
Sarah and Vikki Wall at the final whistle.
Piggy-backing Sarah over to the celebrations.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” the Dunboyne star told Jerome Quinn afterwards. “The main thing was that we got the win, we’ve been here twice and we’ve lost twice so we know how it feels.
“Seeing Sarah go off the pitch was quite emotional for me. She lost out on a few bits with club, she did her cruciate a few years ago so that’s the first thing that came into my mind if I saw down with her knee. I’m delighted I got to celebrate with her, it was bittersweet with the injury but [that moment] made it a bit nicer.”
The 22-year-old also spoke about the impact of Sarah’s misfortune on her own performance.
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“I just thought of her on the sideline not being able to play and not being able to be there, that was an extra motivation for me.
“Seeing how upset Sarah was pulled at my heartstrings a bit. She’s so important, having her as number three has been huge for us this year so I was obviously devastated to see her leaving the pitch.”
'It pulled at my heart strings' – sisterly love inspired Vikki Wall to score one of the 'Goals of the Year' in Croke Park today, after seeing Sarah Wall carried off in Meath's TG4 All Ireland IFC Final win over Westmeath.. @LadiesFootball pic.twitter.com/qfKoliB54V
— Jerome Quinn (@JeromeQuinn) December 20, 2020
“I’d love to be celebrating with my mam and my dad, my sister and my family,” she later added, echoing Murray’s words. “It’s different but I’m just delighted we got the result.”
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It was a thrilling encounter at Croke Park, the end-to-end first half one like no other. Westmeath hit three goals in the space of four minutes early on — two of those coming from Peamount United soccer star Lucy McCartan — and Leona Archibold notched a penalty after the break, but Meath took control from there and delivered a stunning second-half performance.
Wall was immense, as was O’Shaughnessy and Emma Duggan, scorer of 0-7, as the Royals combined to march back to the senior ranks.
“When you concede four goals you shouldn’t really be winning All-Irelands, but today was a little bit different,” Murray added afterwards, assessing his side’s display.
“We certainly weren’t expecting that today, far from it. But we didn’t panic. I knew we wouldn’t panic because we stuck to our plan for the whole match. Overall, we came back, took some outstanding scores. We were by far the best team on the day. Some of our score-taking was brilliant.”
“The next bit of training we’ll have to do is getting physical,” he added, looking forward to the challenge ahead in 2021.
“We love that pitch, but look at the weather. When we heard there was an All-Ireland final on the 20th, we were thinking snow and sleet and frost. Today it was just perfect conditions, a perfect end to the year. I hope it helps everyone in Meath.”
– Additional reporting by Declan Rooney for the LGFA.
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