By Daragh Ó Conchúir
JOHN DAVIS has worked the oracle once more as Meath made the most of their second bite of the cherry to win the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship Final Replay at the Gaelic Grounds and secure their place at the top tier next year.
The 69-year-old has steered the Royals all the way from Junior B to Senior level, while at the same time, bringing them from Division 4 to Division 1 of the National League.
Amy Gaffney was the main driving force for Meath on this historic occasion with four points from play as they earned a deserved victory over a Cork side that failed to build on a strong opening.
Gaffney had a very deep supporting cast though as they likes of Megan Thynne, Ellen Burke, Jane Dolan and Aoife Maguire were among those to make their presence felt in a fiercely contested affair.
The exchanges were wonderfully physical and engaging as both teams dealt well with the howling gale and slippy underfoot conditions.
Cork clocked up three points in the first six minutes with the wind behind them. They only managed another two by the interval however and were held scoreless for 30 minutes.
Some injudicious shooting contributed to that but Meath improved as they battened down the hatches in defence, while Thynne, Gaffney and Dolan took the battle to Cork.
Keeva McCarthy used the wind to her advantage with three stunning points from frees for the Leesiders as they moved 0-5 to 0-1 ahead by the 17th minute.
The St Finbarr’s player missed a few later on but none were straightforward, with two of her scoring efforts coming from inside the Meath half and the second of those close to the sideline.
Caroline Sugrue shot Cork’s first score from play after putting good pressure on Burke following McCarthy’s opening brace.
Not for the first time in a stellar career, Dolan provided the spark for Meath. Moved to centre-forward, the Blackhall Gaels ace won possession before being fouled and made no mistake from the resultant placed ball 40m out.
The fired-up Lauren Callanan was unfortunate to be shown a yellow card for the indiscretion but had an outstanding first half with some real combative play. The Glen Rovers girl was fouled for McCarthy to claim her third point and Katelyn Hickey made it a four-point game thanks to an assist by Rachel O’Shea.
Gaffney slotted her first after a fantastic block by Thynne and Dolan converted a stunning free from 40m out and wide on the right to make it 0-5 to 0-3 at the break.
The sides were level within seven minutes of the restart thanks to points for Gaffney and Dolan (free). McCarthy slotted her fourth free five minutes later to end that half-hour barren scoring spell but Dolan restored parity on the three-quarter mark and Meath, who had definitely wrested control with the elements in their favour, stretched clear.
Aoife Maguire put the Leinster outfit in front for the first time in the game in the 50th minute, after taking a pass of precision and vision by Aoife Minogue. Gaffney added a brace after two scorching runs and when Dolan added her fifth free, they had one hand on the Jack McGrath Cup.
McCarthy gave Cork some hope with another pointed free but the Rebels never looked like chiselling out the goal they needed to avoid a second consecutive final defeat.
SCORERS FOR MEATH: J Dolan 0-5(fs); A Gaffney 0-4; A Maguire 0-1
SCORERS FOR CORK: K McCarthy 0-5(fs); C Sugrue, K Hickey 0-1 each
MEATH: E Mangan, E Burke, C Coffey, E Coffey, Á Keogh, A Maguire, L Donoghue, C O’Brien, M Thynne, A Gaffney, K Troy, A Minogue, F O’Brien, J Dolan, S Hackett. Subs: M Keogh for M Coffey (ht), C Quinn for O’Brien (51)
CORK: A Lee, S Harrington, L Weste, N Ní Chaoimh, R Kileen, S Buckley, L Callanan, F Neville, J Barry, K Hickey, K McCarthy, M McCarthy, R O’Shea, L Collins, C Sugrue. Subs: My Lynch for Kileen (41), M Buckley for Sugrue (58), S Fahy for O’Shea (60)
REFEREE: J Dermody (Westmeath)