By Daragh Ó Conchúir, at Croke Park
Derry and Meath will have to do it all over again after the pair could not be separated in an entertaining Glen Dimplex All-Ireland intermediate camogie final at Croke Park.
Aoife Minogue had a late opportunity to snatch what would have been a brilliant comeback win for Meath, but her shot from a difficult free drifted just wide after looking on target for most of its trajectory. Hawk-Eye did not intercede to indicate that the umpire had made an incorrect decision and that was that.
Dual star Minogue hadn’t her best day from placed balls but it was a credit to the Dunderry flier that she did not allow those difficulties to impact on her general play, proving an inspiration with her forceful effort and indomitable spirit as Meath clawed themselves back into the fray after trailing by seven points.
Derry will be distraught that they failed to score from Lauren McKenna’s point mid-way through the third quarter, which put them 1-9 to 1-2 ahead after Abbye Donnelly had gotten the second-half scoring under way.
In the end, they were probably the happier to emerge from proceedings with a second bite of the cherry as they were undoubtedly hanging on when the final whistle came from Bernard Nea, who contributed to the enjoyable fare with his commitment to avoiding unnecessary involvement.
Minogue had a point on the board after nine seconds but Aoife Shaw hit back with a quick-fire double for Derry.
Then came a lovely finish for a goal from Ciara Foley in the sixth minute but Meath would not trouble to scorekeeper for the rest of the half, while Derry took over, with Dervla O’Kane dropping deep to enable captain and the sole survivor from the last Derry team to win the Jack McGrath Cup, Aoife Ní Chaiside, to drive forward at every opportunity.
Points from Shaw, McKenna and Áine McAllister gave them the lead and then a goal came from Mary McNicholl, whose sister Gráinne was an Oak Leaf star 12 years ago. The Swatragh forward’s shot for a point just dropped under the crossbar in the 23rd minute, somehow eluding Meath netminder Tara Murphy.
McAllister (free), Shaw (45) and McNicholl split the posts again and it was 1-8 to 1-1 at the break.
Derry goalie Niamh Gribbin had been kept busy however and in truth, when Meath look back on this, they will think they could have had a few more goals at least.
They had wasted a couple of more chances, including a missed penalty, when Minogue shot straight at Gribbin, when they finally raised the green flag that infused their challenge with much needed oxygen in the 45th minute.
It was a real goalmouth scramble before sub Aoibhinn Lally found the necessary finish. From there, it was all Meath.
Foley reduced the margin to two before skipper Ellen Burked fired over a superb point from the left in the 55th minute.
Minogue levelled after Sinéad McGill rugby-tackled Aimee Lennon unnecessarily to the ground around 30m out and the counties, who both won their last titles in replays, will go at it again.
SCORERS FOR DERRY: A Shaw 0-4(1f, 1 45); M McNicholl 1-1; A McAllister (1f), L McKenna 0-2 each; M Hegarty 0-1(f)
SCORERS FOR MEATH: C Foley 1-1; A Minogue 0-3(2fs); A Lally 1-0; A Donnelly, E Burke 0-1 each
DERRY: N Gribbin, N Quinn, L Lennon, S McGill, R Downey, A Ní Chaiside, L McKenna, D O’Kane, A McGill, M McNicholl, A McAllister, E McGuigan, A Shaw, R McAllister, M Hegarty. Subs: O Hall for Hegarty (45), A Lennon for McGuigan (49), S O’Connor for McNicholl (60)
MEATH: T Murphy, R O’Neill, C Coffey, S Payne, T King, M Clince, L Devine, G Coleman, A Minogue, A Gaffney, A Donnelly, O O’Halloran, C Foley, E O’Connell, E Burke. Subs: A Lally for Coleman (30), N Doyle for O’Halloran (54)
REFEREE: Barry Nea (Westmeath)