Dublin play Meath in Sunday’s Leinster senior football final, and memories of the famous four games of 21 years ago will be revived. This was when what could be described as an ordinary meeting of the near-neighbours turned out to be one of Gaelic football’s greatest sagas.
Three replays and as many bouts of extra-time were needed to decide the issue, and at the end of it all just one point divided the sides, Meath getting the verdict. The aggregate crowd was upwards on 250,000, and the four games, all played at Croke Park, were handled by Kildare referee, Tommy Howard.
The 1991 campaign was memorable, if that’s the word, for other reasons, and Louth had more than a bit-part to play in it. After beating Longford in the opening round, the team coached by Declan Smith took on, and beat, a Kildare side which had been taken over by Mick O’Dwyer at the beginning of the year and weeks prior to the championship had reached the National League final. As mentioned elsewhere on these sports pages, the recently-deceased Peter McCarthy was one of Smith’s assistants.
Victory qualified Louth for a semi-final meeting with Laois. The tie went to two games, the first of them ending in draw, the other in a big fight. The fisties might have ended all-square, but Laois won the match.
Meanwhile, Meath, after their earlier heroics, were held to a draw by Wicklow, but won the replay. And they won the final, as well.
The fireworks, or the draws, didn’t end at that. Down and Kerry, needed two games to find a winner of their All-Ireland semi-final, while Meath had just one point to spare over Roscommon.
The All-Ireland final was Meath’s tenth match, and it seemed a lengthy campaign had caught up in them when they fell 11 points behind with the game well inside the last quarter. But then the corner boys bared their teeth, Colm O’Rourke having come in at No 13 and Bernard Flynn finding the road to goals less hazardous than before. The Royal rally brought a goal and several points, but came up just short. Down won by 1-16 to 1-14.
21 years since all of that happened – it doesn’t seem like it.