“We got out of jail. We were lucky and we know we were lucky,’’ exclaimed manager P.J. Fahy afterwards.
Runners-up last year and champions for the first time in 2004, Galway got off to a flying start, with Niamh Fahey converting a penalty after only four minutes. Geraldine Conneally put the ball in the net a minute later and Annette Clarke scored a third. It saw them led 3-1 to 0-1 after just eight minutes and pose serious questions about a Meath team without key forward Geraldine Doherty.
P.J. Fahy felt the start was “unreal” and, based on how the game turned against his team later on, he wondered if Meath had not taken them seriously enough: “Probably the start was too good. We lost our shape.’’
Meath captain Mary Sheridan admitted that Galway had caught them off guard: “I don’t think we knew what would be in store for us. But the girls dug deep to get back into it.
“After our Leinster final defeat the heads were down a bit, but we showed great spirit.’’
At the break Galway were eight points clear, 3-4 to 0-5, but on the resumption Meath maintained their improvement, reducing the margin to five within nine minutes and subjecting Galway to real pressure for the first time in the game. Despite wasting some good chances, the Royal county drew level in the 56th minute, following a goal from Katie O’Brien.
Then, as ‘ordinary’ time ended, ’keeper Irene Munnelly stopped a Fahy penalty before Gillian Joyce put Galway in front; a Shields free forced the game into extra time (3-8 to 1-14).
Galway were a point in front at the end of the first period of extra time before conceding scores to Shields and Louise McKeever. but with a minute left sub Gillian Joyce pointed a free.
Galway boss Fahy wants an open draw to be introduced next year: “You play your second game in an All-Ireland quarter-final. It’s crazy.”
Scorers for Galway: G. Conneally and N. Fahey 1-1 each; G. Joyce 0-4 (0-3 frees); A. Clarke 1-0; A. Daly and A.M. McDonagh 0-2 each; L. Joyce 0-1.
Scorers for Meath: J. Shields 0-7 (0-5 frees); K. O’Brien 1-0; G. Nulty 0-3; M. Doyle 0-2 (0-1 free); S. McCormack, L. McKeever, L. Keenan, C. McAuley and M. Sheridan 0-1 each.
GALWAY: U. Carroll; M. O’Donnell, E. Flaherty, M. Glynn; C. Cormican, A. Daly, A.M. McDonagh; P. Gleeson, C. Molloy; E. Concannon, A. Clarke, N. Duggan; G. Conneally, N. Fahey, L. Joyce (capt.). Subs: G. Joyce for Glynn (21st minute); L. Coohill for Gleeson (48th); Glynn for Clarke (58th); H. Carroll for Cormican (65th); Gleeson for Duggan (77th); Clarke for Conneally (78th).
MEATH: I. Munnelly; S. Dooley, E. Lynch, S. McCormack; J. Rispin, L. McKeever, J. Burke; L. Keenan, F. Mahon; M. Sheridan (capt.), J. Shields, G. Nulty; K. O’Brien, G. Bennett, C. McAuley. Subs: M. Doyle for G. Bennett (34th minute); C. O’Shaughnessy for Lynch (49th); S. Bennett for Keenan (70th); A. Thompson for Rispin (79th).
Referee: B Gallagher (Tyrone).