*Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Beaten All-Ireland finalists of the past two seasons Meath had too much class and firepower for Clare to handle and thus progressed to the decider once again at Clare’s expense.
Venue: MW Plant Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaoise
Two goals in a four minute spell saw Kildare punish Clare in the opening round, their first championship outing of the year. The concession of goals once again came back to bite the Banner, this time two green flags in 98 seconds in the first ten minutes of this contest were pivotal in what would turn out to be their last encounter in the 2020 TG4 All-Ireland intermediate championship.
A poor use of possession which included far too many instances of creating fifty fifty scenarios when distributing the ball as opposed to maximising their chances of retaining possession was also far too frequent a feature in what was Clare’s poorest display of the championship. Regrettably for them, this showing came on their most important fixture of the year.
Before any ball was kicked, a defensive approach from Meath was to be expected and it materialised, their sheer dominance in this regard was not predicted as Clare were simply unable to feed their most dangerous attackers.
She may have been wearing the number four jersey but it didn’t stop Meath’s Emma Troy from being the first player to register a score. Clare responded with a Niamh O’Dea white flag before the Royal County with 1-01 via Stacey Grimes and a Niamh O’Sullivan goal as they went from being on level terms to boasting seven point advantage.
Two Grainne Nolan efforts chipped away at the deficit only for Shauna Grimes to add three points followed by one from Vikki Wall.
An excellent fingertip save from Micaela Glynn on the stroke of half-time stopped Shauna Ennis from raiding for goal while Nolan converting a free in the last score of the opening half left Clare eight points adrift at the break.
Any hope of clawing their way back fell to smithereens on the restart when Bridgetta Lynch goaled in a move started by goalkeeper Monica McGuirk, the All Star custodian getting on the ball after an overcooked pass got away from Chloe Moloney.
Stacey Grimes converted her second penalty to seal the result with only thirty eight minutes on the clock. From here, Eamonn Murray’s already defensive side locked up shop and did enough to not alone to keep their opponents at bay but also enter the All-Ireland decider wearing the favourites tag.
For the dominant winners, Megan Thynne, Monica McGuirk, Aoibhín Cleary, Stacey Grimes and Emma Duggan were best.
With ambitions of returning to the top tier of the ladies football championship, any campaign that falls short in this objective is a disappointment from Clare’s point of view. There were undoubtedly positives for this campaign for James Murrihy’s side particularly their wins over Laois and Sligo plus the further strengthening of their panel. However their exit and more particularly performance will leave a sting for some time. Roisin Considine and Orla Devitt stood out for Clare who were guilty of not doing themselves justice.
Scorers Meath: Stacey Grimes (2-06 2’Pen 4), Niamh O’Sullivan (1-00), Bridgetta Lynch (1-00), Emma Troy, Megan Thynne, Aoibhín Cleary, Emma Duggan f, Máire O’Shaughnessy, Shelly Melia 0-01 each.
Scorers Clare: Grainne Nolan (0-03 3f), Niamh O’Dea (0-01).
1: Monica McGuire (Duleek/Bellewstown)
12: Orlagh Lally (Clan na nGael)
3: Sarah Wall (Dunboyne)
2: Katie Newe (Ratoath)
6: Shauna Ennis (Na Fianna)
4: Emma Troy (Boardsmill)
9: Máire O’Shaughnessy (Donaghmore/Ashbourne)
10: Emma Duggan (Dunboyne)
8: Aoibhín Cleary (Donaghmore/Ashbourne)
7: Megan Thynne (Dunsany)
5: Niamh Galgooly (Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels)
15: Stacey Grimes (Seneschalstown)
13: Niamh O’Sullivan (Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels)
14: Bridgetta Lynch (Oldcastle)
11: Vikki Wall (Dunboyne)
21: Aoibheann Leahy (Navan O’Mahoneys) for O’Sullivan (25) (Inj)
19: Orla Byrne ( Duleek/Bellewstown) for Gallogly (50)
17: Emma White (St Patricks) for Wall (53)
20: Mary Kate Lynch (Summerhill) for Newe (57)
25: Shelly Melia (Dunboyne) for Duggan (57)
1: Michaela Glynn (Kilmihil)
2: Siofra Ní Chonaill (St Josephs Doora/Barefield)
3: Ellie O’Gorman (Kilmihil)
4: Gráinne Harvey (West Clare Gaels)
12: Ciara Hickey (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
6: Orla Devitt (Éire Óg)
7: Áine Keane (St Josephs Miltown)
5: Roisin Considine (Liscannor)
8: Laura Egan (Kilmihil)
9: Caoimhe Harvey (West Clare Gaels)
10: Eimear O’Connor (Cúil Gaels)
13: Niamh O’Dea (Banner Ladies)
22: Amy Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
14: Gráinne Nolan (Banner Ladies)
15: Chloe Moloney (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
20: Eimear Keane (St Josephs Miltown) for G Harvey (34)
18: Tara Kelly (Cúil Gaels) for Sexton (HT)
11: Fidelma Marrinan (West Clare Gaels) for Hickey (39)
17: Roisin Looney (Cooraclare) for O’Connor (48)
23: Clíodhna Blake (Doonbeg) for Moloney (56)
Referee: Shane Curley (Galway)