Derry camogs still in with a chance of All-Ireland intermediate success after draw with Meath at Croke Park

Derry boss PJ O'Mullan addresses the Derry camogs at Croke Park after Sunday's All-Ireland intermediate final draw with Meath
Derry boss PJ O'Mullan addresses the Derry camogs at Croke Park after Sunday's All-Ireland intermediate final draw with Meath

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship final Derry 1-9 Meath 2-6

DERRY and Meath have won the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate title on just one occasion apiece. Those wins in 2012 and 2017 respectively were after drawn finals in Croke Park and replays in Ashbourne and Limerick.

On Sunday, neither county could hit a winning score in Croke Park and the presentation of the Jack McGrath Cup will have to wait until the replay that has been declared for this Saturday at a neutral venue to be confirmed in due course.

Derry manager PJ O’Mullan admitted that their second half performance was not good enough on the day, but defiantly referred to Aoife Ní Chaiside’s midweek interview in the Irish News where the only survivor of the 2012 winning team said that it doesn’t matter where an All-Ireland title is won  as long as it is won.

“They were prophetic words,” said O’Mullan who was pleased before the final that Derry were using the same changing rooms as his Loughgiel hurlers when they took their second club title more than a decade ago, and also the one used by winning Antrim camogie teams over the past two years.

“Look, we put ourselves in a winning position at half-time. But I told them in the changing rooms that we needed to score three or four points early in the second half to give Meath a really difficult hill to climb.

“We didn’t manage to do that and the end result is that we were probably lucky enough to escape with a draw.”

The first seven minutes of the first half suggested that this was going to be another open and high-scoring final.

Aoife Minogue, Meath’s dual star midfielder burst through for a point directly from the throw-in, but Aoife Shaw had fired over two points in reply within three minutes.

Then a long searching shot into the Derry goalmouth was batted down by Niamh Gribbin only for Emma O’Connell to throw herself on the rebound and hit the net.

Derry hit back immediately and Aoife Shaw hit her third point with just seven minutes gone. 

Shaw continued to cause problems for Meath and Derry dominated the possession over the next 15 minutes, but there was just one more score – a fine solo point from defender Lauren McKenna in the 19th minute that drew the teams level at 1-1 to 0-4.

However, the game changed dramatically within 90 seconds, beginning with Áine McAllister pointing a 65-metre free in the 22nd minute.

From the puck-out, the silothar was played back up along the Hogan Stand side-line and Máiréad McNicholl pushed past her marker and fired in a shot for a point that dipped under the cross-bar for a goal.

From the next puck-out McAllister dashed forward to record her second point and Derry were in control of the tie.

Shaw, from a 45, and McNicholl added points and the Oak Leaf led by 1-8 to 1-1 at the turnover.

The only danger seemed to be coming from Minogue with her driving runs. 

The Dunderry midfielder, however, was off-colour from frees, putting one wide in the first half and then hitting the target just twice from six opportunities during the second.

Eimhear McGuigan placed Lauren McKenna for the first score of the second half in the 34th minute. 

Little did any of us in Croke Park realise that would be Derry’s last score of the game.

The Meath defence tightened a lot and Shaw and McNicholl didn’t get the same possession they enjoyed in the first half.

Defensively, however, Derry were holding up as well as before the break, although Aoife Ní Chaiside couldn’t get the chances to break forward. 

There were also some harsh calls against Rachel Downey in particular when Derry were in a favourable position to launch an attack.

Yet Meath were not making much headway until a bit of scrappy play in the 43rd minute resulted in a penalty.

Niamh Gribbin saved Minogue’s shot and then got to the rebound to get in a second save. The ball eventually went wide, but from the puck-out there was another scramble in the Derry goal area. 

Again, Gribbin saved, but this time Meath sub Aoibhinn Lilly scrambled the ball home to leave just three points between the sides.

Meath now had the momentum and points from Ciara Foley (46), Ellen Burke (54) and Minogue from a free (59) levelled the tie.

Minogue then got the opportunity to strike a winner in the fourth minute of added time. It was a difficult free from right on the sideline under the Hogan Stand. 

As everyone held their breath, the shot tailed off and went inches to the right of the posts.

Derry’s hopes of a second All-Ireland title are still alive.

Derry: N Gribbin, N Quinn, L Lennon, S McGill, R Downey, A Ní Chaiside, L McKenna (0-2), Á McGill, D O’Kane, Á McGill, M McNicholl (1-1), Á McAllister, capt. (0-2, 0-1 free), E McGuigan, A Shaw (0-4, 2 frees),

R McAllister, M Hegarty

Subs: O Hull for M Hegarty (44), A Lennon for E McGuigan (48), S O’Connor for M McNicholl (59)

Meath: T Murphy; R O’Neill, C Coffey, S Payne; T King, M Clince, L Devine; G Coleman, A Minogue (0-3, 0-2 frees); A Gaffney, A Donnelly (0-1), O O’Halloran; C Foley (1-1), E O’Connell, E Burke, capt. (0-1).

Subs: A Lilly (1-0) for G Coleman (29), N Doyle for O O’Halloran (53)

Referee: B Nea (Westmeath)