Louth senior footballers went to Navan for a 1989/90 National League Division Two match with Meath with stinging criticism ringing in their ears.
In the previous round they’d been beaten by Wexford in Drogheda, a game they were expected to win. When they didn’t, well, it was if everyone was at the throats of not only the team, but also the management.
While critical of the performance against Wexford, this paper took a different view than most in the lead-up to Meath match. In its preview a call went out to the team to show some pride. There’d been a succession of defeats in league and championship ties with Meath before that, but there was no reason, it said, why there should be another. Get up and get at it, was the call.
Frank Lynch probably had something similar to say before sending his charges onto the field, and may have reminded them of what was being said about them. It’s a well-worn ploy, and it sometimes works.
A game that had Meath leading for most part swung towards Louth in the final quarter, and with time almost up, the Reds showed a point in front. Meath, twice winners of the All-Ireland in the previous three years and fielding many of the medal-winners, mounted one last attack.
Colm O’Rourke got the ball in the clear and was left with only Gerry Farrell to beat.
O’Rourke could have played safe by taking a point for a draw, but instead decided to gamble. Farrell, as so often in a brilliant career, was equal to the goal attempt; his save was one of a thrilling match’s many highlight, John Fox’s rout of Mick Lyons being another.
The win, which stands as Louth’s most recent over the ould enemy in league or championship, wasn’t the sign of better things to come. There was just one other win - over Mayo - in the eight-team league to go with defeats by Tyrone, Roscommon, Antrim, Monaghan, and, as already mentioned, Wexford, and it was then back to Division Three.
Still, there was this memorable win at the venue where Louth’s current representatives head for on Sunday next in an attempt to not only break a long cycle of defeats in Boyneside derbies, but gather two valuable points in the fight against relegation. A repeat of 22-years ago would be just fine.
Meath are in disarray and, like Louth, Monaghan and Westmeath, staring at relegation. Louth were the only one of that quartet to take anything from last Sunday week’s series of matches, while Meath’s defeat, to Tyrone, belonged to the sickener category. If Louth were to poach an early lead it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the Meath line, and maybe the team, coming in for some stick from their own.
It’s looking very like the relegation issue will be decided on score difference, but Louth won’t be involved if they take a win from this most important of matches.
For many Louth supporters, Sunday’s trip to Navan will be the second in five days. Coming up at Pairc Tailteann tomorrow night is the final of the Leinster Under-21 championship, and providing the opposition to Colin Kelly’s Young Turks are Dublin. Could the dream of a famous double become a reality?
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