Tuesday 24 October 2017

Meath legend Lyons hoping Summerhill can rekindle memories of '77

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

TRADITION and medals won in past decades won't put scores on the board, but the current crop of Summerhill footballers will be mindful of their heritage when they face Dublin champions St Vincent's at Parnell Park tomorrow in the Leinster club SFC semi-final (2.0).

Any time the fixture schedule throws in a Meath v Dublin pairing in football, an extra sense of anticipation and energy pervades the atmosphere on and off the field.

In that context, despite cautionary words expressed by the rival managers – Summerhill's Declan McCabe and St Vincent's Tommy Conroy – highlighting respect for the opposition, it's inevitable that the shadow of former glories will subtly inspire the players of both sides.

Mick Lyons, who captained Meath to the 1987 All-Ireland win, will be a face in the crowd at the Donnycarney venue. Lyons will be attending as a supporter, albeit with a direct personal interest, as his son Alan operates at centre-back for Summerhill.

The former All Star can expect plenty of banter from Vincent's followers. That comes with the territory when you have featured in some of the legendary battles against the Dubs, particularly that epic four-game 1991 saga, but it will be water off a duck's back for Lyons.

He's well used to having the craic when he welcomes Dubliners to his golf course, Rathcore, near Enfield.

Before Meath came Summerhill, where Lyons' family links were woven into the fabric of the club's best days. His cousin and former Meath player, Austin, was a shining light in Summerhill's historic first Meath senior club title win back in 1974.

In that year, Summerhill became the first Meath club to win a game in the Leinster championship. Their run ended in a provincial semi-final loss to Newtown Blues of Louth, the club that the 2013 Summerhill boys defeated to earn this tilt at St Vincent's.

Summerhill recorded four in-a-row county successes in the '70s, from 1974-77 inclusive.

They went all the way to the Leinster final in '77 and found themselves up against a mighty St Vincent's side that was backboned by some of the Dubs stars of that great era for the metropolitans.

The Vins were reigning All-Ireland club champions and they could call on 10 members of the Dublin panel, including Tony Hanahoe, Brian Mullins, Gay O'Driscoll, Bobby Doyle and Jimmy Keaveney, but the Meath men won by 5-4 to 0-6.

Lyons recalls: "I was a sub on that team. I was just 19 at the time, and Vincent's had a great side, so it was a huge match for us to win."

The victory created another piece of history for Summerhill, as it was the first time a Meath club had won the Leinster title. They failed to get the five in a row in Meath in '78, and had to wait until the 1986 team featuring Mick and his brother Pádraic again brought county honours back to the Hill.

Since then, the pickings have been slim, until the last few years when Summerhill won out in Meath in 2011 and again this year. Two years ago they came a cropper in their first Leinster game when they were beaten by Dublin champions St Brigid's in the preliminary round, but they hope to have learned from that setback.

The big question now is whether Summerhill have got what it takes to overcome a St Vincent's outfit which have shown great resilience in beating the 2012 Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams in a replay.

They coped with Diarmuid Connolly's red card in the replay and Ger Brennan's dismissal after just seven minutes of the Leinster championship opener against St Loman's, Mullingar – both are suspended tomorrow.

Lyons has a high opinion of club football in the capital and he was an interested observer at the drawn final between St Vincent's and Ballymun.

"Dublin championship football is very strong. If you win the Dublin championship, you would nearly say you are going to win the Leinster and All-Ireland," he says.

"The suspensions won't make Summerhill favourites, but Vincent's playing without Diarmuid Connolly is a help. We know it's a huge task."

Irish Independent

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