Meath's great team of 1948-54 came out worst in two thrilling All-Ireland finals - one of them replayed - another All-Ireland semi-final, and a National Football League final, all against their neighbours, Cavan, but garnered another All-Ireland with the help of a Tom Moriarty goal in 1954. Another neighbour, Louth, struck up a rivalry: in the six championships between 1948 and 1953 the sides met each year. The 1949 match went to three meetings, while those of 1950 and 1951 were replayed.
After the 1966 final defeat, centre-back Bertie Cunningham declared his intentions, saying "next year, we will come back and win the All-Ireland". Sure enough, Terry Kearns secured the Sam Maguire Cup for Meath with a punched goal in the 1967 final to defeat Cork.
Meath won the National Football League in 1975 and looked a promising prospect for the All-Ireland. Defeat at the hands of Kevin Heffernan's Dublin team, however, was an indication of what was to come. Heffo's Dubs prevented Meath from winning provincial titles, before a talented Offaly team emerged to win more Leinster titles and become the only team capable of challenging the great Kerry team that dominated football between 1975 and 1986.
Meath looked far from All-Ireland Championship material when losing to Wexford in 1981 and Longford in 1982. A series of goalkeeping errors cost them the 1983 Leinster quarter-final against Dublin. By this time, though, Meath had converted the hurling team's masseur, Sean Boylan into a fully fledged team manager, and few could have predicted the success that would fall upon the county under his reign.
In 1984 the GAA initiated a one-off prestigious competition called the Centenary Cup, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the GAA's foundation. Despite a concerted effort by the Kerry team (who had won four All-Irelands in a row from 1978-1981) that as the county with the greatest tradition, that victory in the competition was a divine right, the Centenary Cup final was ultimately played between Meath and Monaghan. Meath emerged as winners, and after winning the Centenary Cup, Boylan was asked for comment. He replied to say that Meath intended to retain their title another hundred years later.
The 1980s team progressed cautiously towards victory. They missed full-back Mick Lyons for the 1984 Leinster final against Dublin and in 1985 slipped up against Laois in the semi-final. It was therefore not until 1986 that Meath won the first of three consecutive Leinster titles, and followed it up with All-Ireland victories in 1987 and 1988, with two defeats of Cork in the finals, the latter following a replay. Meath also secured the National Football League in 1988. No county has won two Championships, with the National Football League between them, since. In 1989 the Champions were defeated by Dublin, while in 1990 Cork secured victory over Meath in an All-Ireland final, completing a historic All-Ireland Hurling and Football double.
At this stage it seemed the whole country was discussing the great competition that had suddenly developed between these neighbours. The fact that both were seen as having strong defining characteristics added to the sense of competition. Dublin was urban, large, noisy, and the capital of the modern Ireland. Meath was more rural, heroic, understated, and home to the capital of ancient Ireland, Tara. Dublin was identified as home to people of an easygoing, sociable, confident, straightforward, diplomatic, and street smart disposition with a team to represent. Meath was seen as representing people that were of an industrious, brave, determined, honourable, blunt manner. It was a battle between two different human dispositions, even though the football techniques of both were similar. In the midst of this, the teams were close neighbours, and the players would often be living or working amongst supporters of the other team. In addition, Meath's Terry Ferguson was the son of a former Dublin footballer; while the father of Dublin's Paul Curran had played for Meath.
The third meeting of the teams was expected to be close, but because the Dublin players were younger and more resourceful, as time went on Dublin were expected to gain the upper hand. The third game, though, again ended in a draw, even after extra time, and a fourth match was required. At this stage it seemed impossible for either team to overcome the other. In the fourth match - an unprecedented third replay, taking place on the same weekend that the Leinster final was originally meant to have been played - Dublin built up a strong lead, above what they had managed in the previous meetings. However the Meath players showed true doggedness, and an injury time goal from the unlikeliest of scorers - defender Kevin Foley - brought Meath level. The dynamics now favoured Meath and David Beggy managed to score a point directly from the restart to win the fourth match, bringing a remarkable saga to a final ending.
A tired Meath had finally qualified for the First Round of the Leinster Championship, and played the next match against Wicklow in Navan, which also ended in a draw, before Meath emerged victorious in yet another replay. Meath then proceeded to beat Laois in the semi-final, before overcoming Offaly to win their hardest-fought Leinster title yet. Victory over Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final set up a meeting with Down in the All-Ireland final.
With each accumulated match, injuries were accumulating on the first fifteen players. Only three Meath players started the All-Ireland final in an injury-free status, hindering the team's game plan which required at least elven players in defined positions. Colm O'Rourke Meath's star player was incapable of playing a full seventy minutes. There were insufficient players for replacement but by now Meath had acquired an air of invincibility. However Down were the Ulster team with the best tradition in the Championship and represented serious contenders.
In the final itself, Meath fell far behind in the second half and had to stage yet another comeback. Colm O'Rourke appeared as a substitute with twenty minutes left to play as Meath trailed by eleven points. O'Rourke immediately started to help Meath accumulate scores, and entering injury time the gap was reduced to two, before Bernard Flynn came within inches of scoring what would have been a winning goal. The great Meath side had finally run out of time. Down won a historic Championship on a scoreline of 1-16 to 1-14.
The 1992 Championship started with a three point home defeat to Laois which proved the final outing for many of the great side who then retired from inter-county football.
A new team was formed for 1995. This team included many new stars like Trevor Giles Graham Geraghty and Darren Fay. However, these younger players were largely inexperienced for championship football and came up short against a Dublin team determined to win the Championship outright. The resultant 10-point drubbing left a strong impression on the younger Meath players of how much work was needed to win silverware.
In 1996 Meath were not expected to be successful and many were surprised to see the team reach another Leinster final against Dubiln. Leading 0-10 to 0-8 at the death in driving rain Meath gave away a penalty but Dublin's Paul Bealin hit the crossbar and Meath escaped yet again. In beating a consistent Tyrone side in the semi-final, Sean Boylan managed to lead the same team that got nowhere in 1995 to an All-Ireland final in 1996. Meath came back from six points down to force a draw with Mayo in the 1996 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final, forcing a replay. On 29th September 1996, with both sides having been reduced to 14 men following an infamous brawl early in the game, Meath again came from behind and defeated Mayo by 2-9 to 1-11 to claim their sixth All-Ireland. Captain Tommy Dowd, who was living in the Meath Gaeltacht, produced probably the longest victory speech ever given by a Leinster captain.
1997 saw Meath start the Championship against an ambitious Kildare team coached by the Kerry legend Mick O'Dwyer. Meath's previous record against Kildare had been excellent and Meath were expected to be sufficient to win despite Kildare's hunger and superior fitness. O'Dwyer's appointment created massive support in Kildare for their team though and ensured that the opening match had full attendance in Croke Park, with Kildare fans outnumbering Meath fans in the ratio of 3:1. This was a sign of the times as a few years earlier Meath were one of the best supported of any county but their supporters had become accustomed to success under Boylan and no longer travelled to big games in large numbers. The match saw Kildare emerge displaying an unexpected quality of football. Kildare led for most of the match with Meath only managing to draw level in the last minute as the Meath forwards found the Kildare defence very difficult to negotiate.
The replay finished level after ordinary time and extra time was now required to produce a winner. In extra time Kildare running on the never-ending engine of Willie McCreedy in midfield quickly created a six point lead. It seemed as if Kildare's fitness had run Meath into the ground. Then Boylan produced a tactical masterstroke introducing substitute Jody Devine who scored six points in quick succession and helping Meath pull ahead by a single point before Kildare grabbed a freakish point to end the match in yet another draw. The sides therefore met again in a third match. This time the weather had changed and the match was played in rain. Again Meath's determination and bravery earned a strong victory; however as in 1991 this sequence of matches had resulted in accumulated injuries. Meath were without a meaningful defence in the Leinster Senior Football Championship Final against Offaly and the Offaly attack ran riot.
In 1998 Meath produced a performance against Offaly that was like the effect of an unwound spring. However Kildare had already managed to beat a transitional Dublin side and were now playing again at a very high level of fitness and determination. The 1998 Leinster Final between Meath and Kildare was a bad-tempered affair with Meath's Brendan Reilly sent off for a dangerous foul on Kildare centre-back Declan Kerrigan. Kildare's fitness began to cause Meath more problems as the Lilywhites again attacked in waves. This time Kildare had learnt the lessons of the previous year and produced greater more well-taken scores. In contrast reduced to 14 players and playing a team with superior fitness Meath were collapsing under the physical strain of the match. Kildare held onto their lead and a last attack by Meath ended in a questionable refereeing decision which resulted in Kildare moving the ball swiftly downfield. This presented an opportunity for Kildare to expose gaps in the Meath defence due to Kildare's numerical superiority and the resulting goal firmly clinched the match for Kildare.
Meath now found themselves in an All-Ireland semi-final with Armagh. Armagh played all the best football in the first half with two incisive moves that opened up the Meath defence and resulted in goals. The Meath players, however, continued to play earnestly and industriously and started to reduce the lead. Armagh's full-back Ger Reid, who had muted the attacking presence of Graham Geraghty at full-forward, committed a second bookable offense and was sent off. This resulted in more freedom of movement for the Meath forwards who now scored at will and ran out winners by 0-15 to 2-5. Meath had now reached another surprise All-Ireland final and met a capable Cork team who were very young and had not expected to reach a final so early in their playing careers.
In the final Meath and Cork exchanged some early scores with Meath maintaining their lead through to half time (1-5 to 0-5) thanks to an Ollie Murphy goal midway through the first half. However, the second half opened with Trevor Giles missing an early penalty which would have put six points between the sides. Buoyed by this twist of fate Cork replied with 1-1 in five minutes to give them the lead for the first time at 1-6 to 1-5. Many people started to believe that it was to be Cork's day; however with the tactical awareness of Boylan and the on-field leadership of Geraghty and Giles at hand Meath regrouped to win their seventh All-Ireland on a scoreline of 1-11 to 1-8.
Meath now faced Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2001. Given Kerry's great experience and tradition, and the fact that Meath were in the habit of cutting things a bit fine, it was expected that Kerry would win. Furthermore Kerry's team featured the legendary Maurice Fitzgerald, possibly the greatest footballer of the time. Kerry were managed by defensive legend Páidí Ó Sé and had a number of All-Ireland winners from 2000 available. While the sides were level at half-time, at 0-4 each, what transpired in the second half was a collapse of unimginable proportions by the Kingdom, with the final scoreline of 2-14 to 0-5 making the Meathmen look like All-Ireland winners before the Final had even started.
The result was not due to an unexpected physical approach from Meath - clashes between the Kingdom of Kerry and the Royals of Meath tended to be honourable and very clean out of longstanding mutual respect for each others traditions. Meath were simply baffled at Kerry's complete lack of focus after half-time and clearly expected a much firmer performance from their opponents. This left many Meath fans wary about the Final with Meath fans and players completely resolute in their belief that nothing had been won. In comparison, Meath's opponents in the final, Galway, had beaten a Derry team that had shown insufficient fitness and eagerness to reach an All-Ireland final.
Meath went into the All-Ireland final as overwhelming favourites. The scores were tied at 0-7 each at half time in what was a careful and cautious match, as Darren Fay held Galway's star full-forward Padraig Joyce scoreless. Joyce was switched to corner forward at half time and Galway quickly built up an early lead in the Second half. Meath midfielder Nigel Nestor was sent off for a foul on Jarlath Fallon before star Meath forward Ollie Murphy, who was the most effective Meath forward that day, sustained a broken hand after being trod upon. These changes to the balance between the teams gave Galway an edge on the field that they had already been preparing in their own inner resolve. Just as the match seemed to be slipping away from Meath, though, John McDermott raised another attack on the Galway defence that resulted in a penalty awarded to Meath. Trevor Giles, Meath's captain and free-taker, was allocated the responsibility for this task as part of his team role. His shot, however, drifted agonisingly wide, and Galway went to win the match by 0-17 to 0-8 - a scoreline that left the Meath forwards considerably embarrassed.
In 2005 Sean Boylan announced that he would not be seeking re-appointment as Meath manager. Boylan's 22-year term represents a record in modern GAA. In this spell he managed to lead two entirely different teams to win four All-Ireland titles, while coming very close to winning another two. He introduced an increased tactical awareness to the game. Critics have argued that in sending out highly motivated players, Boylan has increased the physical nature of the game and given rise to the 'Puke Football' tactic being pursued by modern Ulster teams.
The 2007 season began with a Croke Park sell-out against old foes and reigning two-time Leinster champions Dublin. Inspired by Graham Geraghty Mark Ward captain Anthony Moyles and Caoimhin King, Meath snatched an unlikely draw, raising hopes and interest in the county. A narrow defeat in the replay set the foundations for what turned out to be a relatively successful season with strong "back-door" victories setting up a quarter-final meeting with a much-fancied Tyrone side which Meath won with an excellent display. Meath met Cork in the semi-final while Kerry and Dublin renewed old rivalries in the other, raising the prospects of a number of mouthwatering potential All-Ireland final fixtures. Meath, though, did not become part of them, with a disappointing display against Cork meaning a semi-final would be the culmination of their season. Cork went on to lose heavily to Kerry in the All-Ireland final.
Meath's 2008 season began with a strong win over unfancied Carlow before a quarter-final fixture with a resurgent Wexford team saw Meath lose an 10-point lead at the interval and fall behind in injury time. While Wexford went on to meet Dublin in the Leinster final, Meath suffered a heavy defeat to Limerick in the 1st round of the All-Ireland qualifier series and Colm Coyle resigned as manager.
After they re-entered the senior championship in 1994, their exploits included victories over Offaly All-Ireland champions at the time by 1-12 to 1-11 in a February 1995 NHL match in Athboy and Wexford by 1-16 to 0-16 a fortnight later in Enniscorthy.
Meath's hurlers currently play in the second-tier Christy Ring Cup where the team have been dominant forces, while not yet managing to win it outright. In 2007, Meath were narrowly defeated by Kildare in the semi-final. Meath are currently involved in a preliminary relegation play-off with Roscommon after failing to qualify for the knock out stages of the 2008 competition.
Ballinabrackey, Ballinlough, Ballivor, Bective, Blackhall Gaels, Boardsmill, Carnaross, Castletown, Clann na nGael, Clonard, Cortown, Curraha, Donaghmore/Ashbourne, Drumbaragh, Drumconrath, Drumree, Dunderry, Dunsany, Duleek/Bellewstown, Dunshaughlin, Gaeil Colmcille, Kilbride, Kildalkey, Killallon, Killyon, Kilmainham, Kilmainhamwood, Kilmessan, Kilskyre, Kiltale, Longwood, Meath Hill, Moynalty, Moynalvey, Moylagh, Na Fianna, Navan O'Mahony's, Nobber, Oldcastle, Rathkenny, Rathmolyon, Ratoath, Seneschalstown, Simonstown, Skryne, Slane, St. Brigids, St. Colmcilles, St. Marys, St. Michaels, St. Patricks, St. Pauls, St. Peters Dunboyne, St. Ultans, St. Vincents, Summerhill, Syddan, Trim, Walterstown, Wolfe Tones.
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