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'Mick Lyons nearly got to the ball before me'

IT'S probably a bit of a cliche, but it really is hard to believe that it's 14 years to the day since Meath finally got the better of us after those four epic games in the Leinster first round.

I suppose in Irish sporting terms it's probably a moment like a "where were you when JFK was shot or when Elvis died" because most sports fans in the country will have some memory of one of the games or where they watched them.

The rivalry had been building between the teams for a number of years with a lot of close games and Meath probably had the upper hand on us in the late eighties and up until then.

Ironically, though, that gut-wrenching 1991 defeat actually seemed to work out better for us. We went on to win four Leinsters in a row '92- '95, while that year probably was the last hurrah for that great Meath team.

They truly were a great side. A look at their teamsheets is like a 'who's who' of football - O'Rourke, Lyons, O'Malley, O'Connell, Flynn, the list goes on and on.

We had our fair share of class acts too and I'd say a fair percentage of that Dublin team would feature in any debate about naming a Dublin team of the last 50 years.

As for the games themselves, they really captured the public imagination. It's hard to put into words the hype around the capital and all over the country at the time. It was great for the GAA.

In all fairness to the Leinster council they did appreciate the efforts of the players in bringing over 250,000 people to Croke Park for a first round tie and made a financial donation to both county boards - we got a nice holiday to Portugal out of it.

My own personal memories of the games themselves wouldn't be crystal clear after all this time but I clearly remember the physical nature of the exchanges.

Both teams went full-blooded for the ball and had too much respect for each other to engage in any play acting. Unfortunately you can't always say the same about a lot of today's games.

I spent most of the four-game saga marking Colm O'Rourke.

O'Rourke was better known as a corner forward over the years, but he played most of those matches at centre forward.

He was a difficult opponent, big, physical and skilful - a rare combination.

When Colm used to go back into the corner late in games, I recall marking PJ Gillic a big, strong man who was also very difficult to mark.

Everyone remembers my missed penalty in the fourth game, although I'd like to forget it!

I struck the ball fairly well but it just clipped the outside of Mickey McQuillan's post.

Much was made of Mick Lyons running alongside me as I went to take the kick, but to be honest I didn't see him at the time, although TV pictures do suggest he nearly got to the ball before I did!

It's interesting to note that, that penalty incident led directly to the introduction of the semi-circle penalty exclusion zone into Gaelic football, so I guess that's one more way the series has gone down in history.