By Kevin Egan at Páirc Tailteann
A DEVASTATING first-half display from Meath champions Ratoath laid the foundations for their AIB All-Ireland Junior B Club Championship Final glory over a spirited Clontibret side in Páirc Tailteann.
Such was the whirlwind of positive score taking, mixed with Sinéad Beagan’s dead-ball accuracy, that the groundwork for the win was laid in the first 30 minutes of action as the Monaghan champions had simply no answer to the precise play of the youthful Ratoath team.
With huge numbers of supporters making the walk up Bruce’s Hill to support their community’s heroes, the load roars that greeted the teams possibly led to a nervous opening.
Indiscipline and an inability to curb the movement and energy of Fiona McNerney and Sinéad Beagan was Clontibret’s downfall in these early stages and provided Ratoath the opportunity to settle into the showpiece.
Beagan, captain for the Meath Intermediate champions, showed all her experience and composure as she fired over three quick frees to settle her colleagues.
By the ninth minute the game opened up and Áine McNerney found the game’s first score from open play after a lovely reverse pass from Anna Brannagan provided the opportunity.
Under a sustained period of Ratoath dominance, Clontibret did force an opening. Marie Greenan’s effort just dropped shy of the top corner and forced Niamh O’Riordan into action, batting the ball away just in time.
On top of that blow and already struggling to catch a break, misfortune favoured Ratoath in the next play.
A direct ball into the square from Áine McNerney was misjudged in the misty Navan drizzle by Clontibret ‘keeper Michelle Morgan and slipped into the net. That hammer blow midway through the half gave the outcome a touch of inevitability.
To her credit Morgan didn’t let her head drop and went on to have a fine game, three notable saves in the second-half alone redeeming her performance.
Clontibret finally opened their account from the industrious wing-forward Chloe McGuigan after some good interplay in the right corner set up the chance.
Beagan quickly fired over a captain’s score to maintain their healthy lead at the half’s closing stages. There was time for Clontibret to squeeze over their second point of the half, a free from Greenan – the option of shooting for a green flag was spurned by the centre forward.
Fiona McNerney added to her tally and Beagan rounded off a fine body of work for herself and her side with a pointed free to capitalise on great work from Brannagan. The foundation was laid with Ratoath 1-9 to 0-2 to the good at half time.
The start of the second-half was marred by a long delay after McGuigan was taken off with a head injury. Greenan pointed the free as they nibbled into the hefty deficit. Despite being under pressure at the back the Monaghan side held firm for long periods. Hannah McSkeane put on a supreme defensive display at centre back to stem the tide, and they succeeded in suffocated the Ratoath forwards.
Ratoath did in fact go 25 minutes of the second-half without scoring and when the score arrived it was Beagan who again settled her young team with a crucial point.
Beagan followed that up when she assisted substitute Emma McNerney for her score with a sublime crossfield pass. Niamh McLoughlin brought the scoring to an end, ushering in wild celebrations from this Ratoath side that’s sure to be a growing force in Meath and beyond over the coming years.
SCORERS FOR RATOATH: S Beagan 0-7 (fs); Á McNerney 1-1; F McNerney 0-2; N McLoughlin (f), E McNerney 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR CLONTIBRET: M Greenan 0-2 (fs); C McGuigan 0-1
RATOATH: N O’Riordan, O Hayes, S McNerney, C Griffiths, C Faherty, Á Cooke, A McCann, A Brannagan, E McGill, E Griffiths, Á McNerney, L McCann, N McLoughlin, F McNerney, S Beagan. Subs: A O’Reilly for E Griffiths (47), E McNerney for A McCann (60), L Byrne for C Griffiths (60), L Gaffney for Faherty (60+2), A Fagan for S Beagan (60+2)
CLONTIBRET: M Morgan, S McDonald, J McSkane, D Moen-McNeel, O Boyle, H McSkeane, R Duffy; A McElvaney, M Atkinson, C McGuigan, J Duffy, M Greenan, E McGlone, A Hamill, A Boyle. Subs: N Ní Chiaráin for Boyle (12), K Carragher for McGuigan (39), C Markey for Hamill (60+2), K Morgan-O’Reilly for Moen-McNeel (60+5)
REFEREE: C Quinlan (Galway)