By Fergal Lynch
LAOIS’S miserable start to 2019 continued at Pairc Tailteann, Navan on Sunday as Meath put them to the sword and inflicted another defeat in the opening round of the Ladies Leinster IFC.
After losing all their games in NFL Division 2 and suffering relegation the Leinster championship campaign proved short, but not very sweet as they came a cropper against a well-organised, hard working Meath side who were inspired by their goalkeeper Monica McGuirk and top scorer Stacey Grimes.
Laois did have their moments, particularly from Emma Lawlor, Mo Nerney and the dangerous Erone Fitzpatrick, but whenever Meath looked under pressure they upped their intensity again and snuffed out the threat.
Most of the damage was done when Meath had the strong wind at their backs in the opening half, but it was their defensive resolve and superb goalkeeping from McGuirk that finished the job after the break with Bridgetta Lynch’s 48th minute goal making it 4-12 to 2-7 and putting the issue beyond doubt.
Meath started well with two points from Grimes (one free) and one from Vikki Wall countering a score from Lawlor to give them a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after four minutes.
The first indication of how dangerous Laois could be came in the sixth minute as Sinead Cullen’s stinging drive was acrobatically tipped out for a ’45 by McGuirk.
Fitzpatrick closed the gap to the minimum from a free and in the 11th minute there was nothing McGuirk could do to stop Laura Nerney from finding the net to give Laois the lead for the first time, 1-2 to 0-3.
Meath’s response to the concession of that goal was impressive as Emma Duggan, Shauna Ennis and Wall all pointed inside a minute to give the hosts a one-point lead.
Jane Moore restored parity at the end of the opening quarter, but 30 seconds later a brilliant move involving Megan Thynne and Kelsey Nesbitt set up Grimes who calmly sidestepped Laois goalkeeper Fiona Kelly and fired to an empty net. Meath were never caught again.
Nesbitt and Grimes capitalised on poor kick-outs to make it 1-8 to 1-3, but still Laois looked a threat with McGuirk called upon again to make a superb stop to Aisling Kehoe.
Grimes went close to bagging her second goal when her improvised flick over the advancing Kelly bounced off the crossbar, but Laois were also denied a goal when Mo Nerney was deemed to have been inside the square when she gathered possession before firing to the net.
Fitzpatrick pulled a point back for Laois, but six minutes before the break Duggan pounced on an error by Caoimhe Simms and finished brilliantly to make it 2-9 to 1-4.
Two minutes later Grimes did grab her second goal when Aoibhin Cleary picked her out with a brilliant pass.
Mo Nerney and Niamh Gallogly traded points in first half injury time as Meath took a 3-10 to 1-5 lead to the break.
Turning around to face into the teeth of the strong wind Meath’s scoring rate dropped, but their defensive tenacity impressed as they limited Laois to just 1-4 after the interval.
Fitzpatrick opened the scoring in the second half, but Meath continued to be a threat with Wall firing at Kelly before Grimes pointed.
Maire O’Shaughnessy put 12 points between the sides before a Mo Nerney free was followed by a Lawlor goal which gave Laois brief hope, 2-7 to 3-12.
However that hope was extinguished a minute later when Lynch broke the ball down to Duggan and the minor star played the ball back to Lynch who scrambled the goal to make it 4-12 to 2-7 – game over.
Laois did add points from Lawlor (free) and Mo Nerney, but two more frees from Grimes and a fine score from Duggan ensured Meath advanced comfortably.
MEATH: Monica McGuirk; Katie Newe, Sarah Powderly, Orlaith Duff; Aoibhin Cleary, Shauna Ennis (0-1), Niamh Gallogly (0-1); Maire O’Shaughnessy (0-1), Kate Byrne; Megan Thynne (0-1), Emma Duggan (1-2), Orla Byrne; Stacey Grimes (2-6, 0-3fs), Kelsey Nesbitt (0-1), Vikki Wall (0-2).
Subs: Bridgetta Lynch (1-0) for Nesbitt (42m), Aoibheann Leahy for O Byrne (48m), Shelly Melia for Duggan (58m), Niamh Sheridan for Newe (59m), Seanaidh Hickey for Ennis (59m)
LAOIS: Fiona Kelly; Mary Cotter, Clodagh Dunne, Maureen Young; Anna Healy, Ellen Healy, Aine Halberlin; Laura Nerney (1-0), Jane Moore (0-1); Erone Fitzpatrick (0-3, 0-1f), Caoimhe Simms, Sinead Cullen; Mo Nerney (0-3, 0-1f), Aisling Kehoe, Emma Lawlor (1-2, 0-1f).
Subs: Aimee Kelly for Cotter (h/t), Shannon Costello for Cullen (h/t), Emily McWey for Simms (38m), Julia Cahill for Kehoe (43m), Sinead O’Rourke for Kelly (50m)
Referee – Finbarr Shanahan (Dublin)