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‘Any day you play Dublin is always tough’ – Aoibhín Cleary and Meath seeking more Leinster glory


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The bus journey down the Clonliffe Road on the way to the stadium.

“The streets packed with Meath fans wearing their jerseys. The atmosphere was just incredible,” she recalls.

“And then the roar when the final whistle blew. I’ll never forget it. Running to our supporters. It was such a special day.”

The team came home to Trim. There were people hanging from the rooftops. In the days that followed, the trophy did a tour of the county.

“People were saying how much we had lifted their spirits after the Covid time. It was lovely to hear we had that impact.”

Meath were All-Ireland champions again in 2022.

“That first season we had come in under the radar,” she reflects. “We had been building for a long time. It took us a quite a while to reach that level.

“Then after we won it, everyone was more aware of us. And being the All-Ireland champions, everybody wants to beat you. 2022 was a much tougher year.”

In 2022, Meath beat Galway in the quarter-final by a point, Donegal in the semi-final by two points before overcoming Kerry in the final.

“It was very testing, but, then again, that’s the way a championship should be. Nobody knows on any given day who is going to win, so that’s brilliant for the sport, and it shows how much it has come on.”

Cleary (left) plays for Donaghmore Ashbourne. She enjoys her job in the tax department at PwC. She stepped away from the computer to help announce AIG as the official Insurance partners to the LGFA.

“High demands come with playing inter-county football. It’s very beneficial to have the option of working from home on some of the days,” she explains.

Former manager Eamonn Murray always put the person first. He was at the heartbeat of the Meath success.

“He just has a great way with people. He wanted to make sure that we were enjoying our football.

“We all got on as a group and that was reflected in our performances. Eamonn, his management team, the county board, and all concerned put in a huge effort.”

Meath beat Dublin in that 2021 All-Ireland final, and they’ll meet them again this Sunday in the TG4 Leinster Senior Championship final in Croke Park (11.45).

“It’s wonderful to be playing in Croke Park. On a double-header with the men’s Dublin v Louth Leinster final. That’s beneficial for the promotion of ladies’ football.”

Meath have gone through a period of transition. “We have had a turnover of players and management. That was always going to bring its challenges.

“We had a mixed league. We won our first three games, then lost the next three, but we finished well in our last league game against Cork. We learned a lot from the league. We worked on things before the Leinster Championship.

“It’s good to see Kildare in the Leinster Championship. It makes it more competitive. That is what you want. It all helps with preparation ahead of the All-Ireland championship.”

The Dubs are the champions. Last Sunday, they overcame the Royals in the Leinster Championship Group game at a sun-drenched Parnell Park. Both sides had already secured their ticket to the final.

But in their Lidl Division 1 League meeting in January at Páirc Tailteann, Meath defeated the Dubs.

“Any day you go out to play Dublin is always a tough day. We have had some terrific tussles,” Cleary adds.

“You always look forward to playing the Dubs, especially in Croke Park.”

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