Louth looking to conjure spirit of '91 for Lilywhites test
THERE has been a lot of water under the bridge since then but, at the time, Mick O'Dwyer branded it one of his "biggest disappointments" in football.
It was 1991 and the Kerry man had just started his first stint with Kildare. The Lilywhites had been pipped by Dublin in the league final and, with the Waterville man at the helm, they were expected to make a considerable assault on a provincial title.
Of course, Dublin and Meath's four-game saga would eclipse everything that summer, but not before Louth ambushed the Lilies in Drogheda. Perhaps Kildare should have seen it coming. Leinster Council feared the venue wouldn't be capable of holding the crowd and offered £20,000 compensation if Louth gave up home advantage and moved the game to Navan or Croke Park.
With no club action in neighbouring Meath that weekend, the provincial body surmised that Drogheda would be unable to meet the capacity requirements as the attendance would be swelled by Meath GAA fans making the short hop across the Boyne. But Louth county manager Frank Lynch, who played on the All Ireland-winning side of 1957, urged the county board to stand firm.
After a safety inspection, Louth retained home advantage and Stefan White hit 2-4 to help them to a famous win. And with no back-door option, Micko was consigned to a short championship summer.
"All the talk in the run up to that game was about Micko," recalled White, who played for Louth between 1985 and 1999.
"It suited us though. They were being built up and there wasn't much talk about us. We hung in with them in the first half and were close enough to them at the end to see us through.
"I think everyone wanted the game played elsewhere, but we wouldn't move it and it worked out for us. It was a great day."
Louth midfielder Seamus O'Hanlon would later describe the win as one of the highlights of his time with the county which, after an 18-year career, underlines what it meant to the Wee County.
"We were constantly getting Dublin and Meath in Leinster at the time," said White. "And they were in the top three or four teams in the country at the time, never mind Leinster."
The back door took the life and death element out of the Championship and means that even if Louth do manage to pull off another shock tonight, it won't have the same effect as in 1991.
A YouTube clip of White's first goal shows the Dundalk man having a clear run in on goal from more than 20 metres out. A similar goal in Navan tonight is unthinkable with today's blanket defences and minimal risk strategies, which, according to White, makes the chances of an upset even more remote.
"I remember everyone being on a high after that win, it really lifted the place. But that wouldn't happen now, it's a totally different Championship, in every way."
Surprisingly, the teams have only met on three occasions since 1991, with Louth repeating their success in 1995 before Kildare won the most recent renewals in 2000 and 2002. There has been little to cheer for Louth fans at underage level recently, with rugby's Rob Kearney the most celebrated product of the Wee County in recent times.
"I don't think Kildare will have been too worried with what Louth showed against Longford. We'll need Paddy Keenan in top form, especially if Shane Lennon misses out," said White.
"Darren Clarke was on the bench for the Longford game and I'd like to see him get a run, because he has an eye for a score and it will take some of the pressure of JP Rooney up front. But we're up against it. It would be a major shock if Louth managed it."
But, shocks - as White knows - can happen in this fixture.