July 25th, 2016.
The last time Dublin and Meath ladies Gaelic footballers met in the Championship.
Sunday the 4th of September 2021 at 4:15pm marks their next encounter, the All Ireland final. A highly anticipated affair that sees the mighty capital city bid for their 5thsuccessive Brendan Martin Cup and The Royal County endeavor for their first.
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Since that game five years ago the side now managed by Eamonn Murray were regraded to Intermediate level and fought their way back up again last year, only to defy all the odds and not just survive but compete at the Senior standard.
Their path to the final no meager task, they pegged 2020’s dark horses Armagh to a 3-15 to 1-14 (7 points) victory in the quarters, before taking on Cork in a David and Goliath style triumph in the semi-finals.
With key players a plenty the surge through the ranks brought with it notoriety to stars such as Emma Duggan, Máire O’Shaughnessy, Shauna Ennis, Vikki Wall and of course Stacey Grimes.
A teenage substitute in the previous meet during her debut season, the 24 year old is now one of the first names on the team sheet and is “looking forward to the game” but discloses that the team are under “under no illusions” as to the undertaking at hand.
“They’re an amazing side” she says.
“Any day you play Dublin is a big day. They’ve won four in a row and they’re going for the fifth so they’re always going to be extremely hard side to overcome but look we’re relishing the opportunity.”
“We have to really perform at our best to get over the line with them, but at the same time we believe that we can do it.”
“There’s an exciting build up on around the County, Meath in general too further than that…It’s an exciting time to be playing football and look, we’re going to try our best obviously and do what we can.”
Having already made history when they booked their place in the final to knock out The Rebels who had trounced them by 40 points six years prior and have major Senior championship record, the manner in which they did so shocked many to the core.
With three minutes to go the green and gold outfit had a seven point deficit to climb, going on to win the match with their exceptional fitness and attitude in the extra time.
“We showed great resilience, teamwork, leadership and hard work to come back into that position” Grimes says.
#MTHvCOR 59 nóim An Mhí 1-08 (11) Corcaigh 2-08 (14) CIC ÉIRICE aimsithe ag Stacey Grimes don Mhí 🤩🥳 Stacey Grimes hits the back of the net with a penalty in the last minute 😍👌@LadiesFootball #ProperFan #PeilnamBan BEO/LIVE AR @TG4TV pic.twitter.com/50q8k4EPEA— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) August 15, 2021
“We took it with both hands, and we kicked on from there.”
“At the end of the day, you never know what can happen until the final whistle goes and that match really proved that. You can never give up and you always have to work to the end. Thank God we did!”
“It was a really good experience and something that I and a lot of the girls never would have before. A great day for Meath football and for everybody involved.”
From players to management, fans to family, last year’s Intermediate team of the year member describes the entire ordeal as a “collective effort” that has gotten them to this point.
A moment that has been a long time in the making, it’s evident that the structures of Meath LGFA have player progression and pathway in mind, if only you look at their recent Games Development Officer appointment.
The first in the county dedicated to such a role the Seneschalstown’s stalwart recognises the importance of imparting such knowledge onto the next generation and encouraging them to stay involved in the game that has given her so much.
“It’s a passion of mine” she says.
“It’s going to take a bit of time, but it’s something that I cherish and I’m really looking forward to building on.”
“When I was playing underage, I always wanted to play for Meath. It shows that if you keep at it and you stick with it you never know what can happen.”
Conscious of the high dropout rate among girls in sport, despite the sentiment project it may be Grimes is well aware of the gravity the formative job.
“The retention of girl is particularly crucial” she says.
“We have to get more girls involved at underage levels and then keep them coming in at that teenage level.”
“That’s a goal of mine to really work on and see the growth in that.”
For now though focus turns to the outing on Sunday which may well influence the onlooking youngsters all in itself when they bear witness to their Meath heroes’ battle against Dublin.