All-Ireland triumph so sweet for Meath
They say you have to lose one before you win one and Meath proved true to that adage when they bounced back from a heavy defeat to Galway in 1966 to claim only their third All-Ireland title after a 1-9 to 0-9 win over Cork in the 1967 decider.
The Royals were bridging a 13-year gap and on an ideal day for football an attendance of 70,343 saw a rejuvenated second-half display which was enough to get them over the winning line.
Like any All-Ireland champions, Meath had a fair sprinkling of stars in that era, but in terms of titles they might not have reaped as rich a harvest that they should have. They did win a Leinster title in 1964 and were somewhat unfortunate to lose the All-Ireland semi-final that year. They then won another provincial crown in 1966, before reaching the Holy Grail the following year.
Fifteen clubs were represented on the All-Ireland-winning team, which was captained by Trim?s Peter Darby. Gaeil Colmcille (Kells) were the reigning senior champions but they didn?t have a player on the team, while Kilbride ? who went on to win the senior crown in 1967 ? had Jack Quinn at fullback and his brothers Gerry and Martin were also members of the panel.
The footballing landscape has certainly changed in the 40 years since that success, with clubs like St Vincent?s represented by final hero Terry Kearns. Mick Mellett was from Athboy, Peter Moore from Ballinabrackey. Tony Brennan (Enfield), Noel Curran (Dunshaughlin) and Oliver Shanley (Duleek) were also included. Paddy Mulvaney maintained a proud Skryne tradition, while Sean McCormack (Kilmainhamwood) and Mick White (Rathkenny) were the north Meath representatives.
The team also had its share of characters, including the Quinn brothers, but none more so than Pat ?Red? Collier from St Patrick?s Stamullen. ?The Red?, as he was affectionately known, could hardly be described as ?the pin-up boy? of the team, but was instantly recog-nisable and was a firm favourite with his swashbuckling style and never-say-die attitude. He was also hard as nails and as an opponent once said, ?he would rather go through you than around you.?
It would be interesting to see how The Red would be looked upon in the modern game. Would he be pictured on the back pages of glossy GAA magazines displaying the latest style in snug-fit Lycra bicycle shorts and breathable T-shirt from O?Neill?s or some other sportswear company?
As far as being tenacious and fearless was concerned, The Red had good company in the Meath half-back line in Bertie Cunningham and Pat Reynolds. Ballivor man Cunningham was another ?gentle giant? who won an All-Ireland minor medal 10 years earlier, while Reynolds was one of the greats of that era and the first Meath player to receive an All-Star award in 1971. Summerhill man Matt Kerrigan, who played on the forty, received a similar accolade in 1975.
Fr Pat Tully was the long-serving chairman of the Co Board at that time and divided his time between his spiritual duties and football. The county was also fortunate to have a man of the capabilities of Peter McDermott as coach. Peter had done it all during a glorious playing career, winning a first All-Ireland in 1949 and then captaining the county to a second in 1954. He also refereed a few finals in his spare time and along with Fr Tully was the guiding light behind the team.
Peter, of course, was also the organiser and brains behind the ground-breaking tour to Australia in 1968 when Meath travelled down under and beat the mighty Aussies.
The Irish Independent in its report on the final described the first 30 minutes as a half of bits and pieces, if not fragments. Meath only scored once in the half, a point from Paddy Mulvaney, and Cork ? with the advantage of the slight breeze ? led 0-4 to 0-1 at the break. If there was an RTE panel at the time they would not have given Meath much chance of winning on the evidence of the first-half display, but Joe Brolly would be made eat his words!
Within eight minutes of the restart that deficit was turned into a 1-4 to 0-4 lead as Mulvaney and Noel Curran shot over points. Then midfielder Terry Kearns, who had earlier switched places with Matt Kerrigan, fisted a centre from the Summerhill man past Billy Morgan to the net.
That score came six minutes into the second half and Tony Brennan then pointed from a free. Cork replied with a point, but Mick Mellett popped up with two quick-fire points to stretch the Meath lead.
Cork did not give up easily, but Meath had a stroke of good fortune when Kearns sent in a centre that bounced in front of the goal and went over the bar. The Rebels got the deficit back to a point, but Kearns took his tally to 1-2 and then Noel Curran scored an insurance point for the Leinster champions.
In a last-gasp Cork effort Jack Quinn saved a dangerous situation but conceded a free from which Cork tried for a goal. The ball was blocked by a phalanx of Meath defenders and a free out preceded the final whistle.
MEATH ? S McCormack, M White, J Quinn, P Darby (capt), P Collier, B Cunningham, P Reynolds, P Moore, T Kearns 1-2, T Brennan 0-1, M Kerrigan, M Mellett 0-2, P Mulvaney 0-2, N Curran 0-2, O Shanley.
CORK ? B Morgan, B Murphy, J Lucey, J O?Mahony, F Cogan, D Coughlan (capt), K Dillon, M Burke, M O?Loughlin 0-1, E Philpott 0-3, E McCarthy, B O?Neill 0-1, E Ryan, C O?Sullivan 0-3, F Hayes 0-1.
Referee ? John Moloney (Tipperary).