Meath caused one of the great football shocks to win a first ever senior All-Ireland football title, and deny Dublin the five-in-a-row in the process.
The Blues were overwhelming favourites before throw-in but a high intensity display, driven on by the superb Vikki Wall, saw the Royals claim back-to-back All-Irelands of their own – although at different grades.
The Dubs were never ahead of their neighbours as Emma Duggan’s first-half goal built the foundations for a famous victory at Croke Park.
Meath sent out a statement of intent from the off as Wall contested the throw-in, won it and ran straight at the Dubs’ defence. She was fouled by Jennifer Dunne and Stacey Grimes slotted the resulting free. The Royals won the kickout but Niamh O’Sullivan put her effort wide to the right of the goal from a very scoreable position.
Sinéad Aherne had Dublin’s first score in the third minute as they worked a free short, and she popped it over from close range.
Meath restored their lead in the fifth minute. O’Sullivan finished from out left after being set up by Wall.
The Dunboyne woman was involved in everything at that stage. Once again she won a free but Duggan’s effort just tailed off wide to the left.
From the kick out however Duggan won the ball and she shot from 40 yards – the ball went over the retreating Ciara Trant’s head and into the back of the net. The Royals couldn’t have asked for a better start as they led by four.
Dublin needed a score and Hannah Tyrrell provided it, pointing a free from the 21 after Sinéad Goldrick had been fouled.
But Meath were full of energy at that stage. A run for Emma Troy down the left brought the play back into Dublin’s half. And when the space was there for a shot it was the Boardsmill back who was free to slot it over the bar out right.
In a lively opening Martha Byrne – the Dublin number 2 – had the next score and the gap was back to two before Tyrrell made some space and kicked her second point of the afternoon.
Meath responded and once again some good running by Wall created panic in the Dubs defence. She released the ball to Bridgetta Lynch in some space. It was a two-on-one situation but she elected to pop the ball over the bar to send the challengers in a goal clear at the water break.
The game restarted with Aoibhín Cleary needing attention after she came off worst in a contest with Dunne. When play resumed Dublin worked it up the field where Niamh Hetherton was fouled – Tyrrell did the necessary from the 21.
The gap should have been reduced to one when Orlagh Nolan introduced some pace into the attack and laid the ball off for Leah Caffrey. The Na Fianna defender rushed her shot and it went wide to the right of the post.
Aherne then set up Tyrrell for a goal chance, taking out a couple of Meath backs with a hand pass, but Monica McGuirk pulled off a brilliant save to her left to keep the ball out.
Another powerful run by Wall saw her bursting through the Dublin cover. Once again she was unselfish, laying it off for Duggan who was pulled down by Dublin full-back Niamh Collins.
Grimes had no problem with the free and the gap was back to a goal with nine minutes of the first half to play.
And Meath stretched the advantage with a fine point from a narrow angle by O’Sullivan out left.
Dublin had sight of goal once more but Tyrrell was swallowed up on the edge of the square after claiming a high ball and she couldn’t get a shot away.
Another Dublin attack was broken up by the rampant Meath defence and when the Royals transitioned into attack they stretched their opponents out left. It left Troy in acres of space on the other flank and she composed herself before kicking her second point of the afternoon.
If Meath needed reminding of how dangerous Tyrrell could be she showed it moments later, collecting a ball out on the right before creating space and slotting over the bar from a tight angle. But the gap was out to five as half-time loomed with Duggan kicking one over off her right.
And Mick Bohan was electing to use his experienced bench before half-time as Caoimhe O’Connor replaced Hetherton at full-forward in attempt to kick the defending champions into life.
Dublin needed to get on the scoreboard early in the second-half to get back into contest, and Tyrrell once again stood up to the mark with her fourth point of the afternoon, stroking over a fine score with her left.
But a wide from the Na Fianna woman shortly afterwards meant that there had been just one score in the 10 minutes after the restart, and that the underdogs had survived the first onslaught.
A patient Meath attack was finally broken up as Collins intercepted the ball, and as the Dubs broke forward you could sense in the ground that the next score could be critical in deciding the destination of the Brendan Martin Cup.
Carla Rowe eventually provided it, putting plenty of air on it to open her final account.
But Meath finally had their first score of the second-half after 15 minutes. O’Sullivan showed a clean pair of hails to the cover as she cut in from the right, and eventually Grimes curled over a beaut from the 21.
And the momentum was all with the Royals now as Shauna Ennis set up Duggan for another point from play – with 13 minutes to go Meath had restored their half-time advantage of five.
Kate Sullivan was introduced and her first act was to kick a score from play. Moments later Aherne miscued from out left, but O’Connor collected the ball, hand-passed it to Tyrrell, and the former Ireland rugby international had cut the gap back to the goal.
When Duggan kicked a free wide you could feel the momentum swinging once more and from the next play Lyndsey Davey brought the gap down to two.
Crucially for Meath Dublin couldn’t get any close as an Aherne effort came back off the post. Eamonn Murray’s side took full advantage as O’Sullivan restored their goal-advantage with a well-taken effort into Hill 16.
And from their they were able to control much of the possession, as Dublin didn’t threaten the goal that would have won it for them.
A year after claiming intermediate honours, Meath became the senior champions.
Meath: Monika McGuirk; Emma Troy (0-02), Mary Kate Lynch, Katie Newe; Aoibheann Leahy, Aoibhin Cleary, Shauna Ennis (c); Orlagh Lally, Maire O’Shaughnessy; Orla Byrne, Stacey Grimes (0-03(2f)), Niamh O’Sullivan (0-03); Vikki Wall, Emma Duggan (1-02), Bridgetta Lynch (0-01).
Subs used: Megan Thynne for Lycnh (46), Niamh Gallogly for Leahy (46), Emma White for O’Sullivan (59), Shelly Melia for Lally (60)
Dublin: Ciara Trant; Martha Byrne (0-01), Niamh Collins, Leah Caffrey; Siobhan McGrath, Sinéad Goldrick, Orlagh Nolan; Jennifer Dunne, Lauren Magee; Hannah Tyrrell (0-07(2f)), Lyndsey Davey (0-01), Carla Rowe (0-01); Sinéad Aherne (c) (0-01), Niamh Hetherton, Siobhan Killeen.
Subs used: Caoimhe O’Connor for Hetherton (28), Olwen Carey for McGrath (31), Niamh McEvoy for Killeen (31), Kate Sullivan (0-01) for Nolan (46), Aoife Kane for Davey (55)
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down)