Friday 19 January 2018

Sean Boylan: What really happened on Meath's famous trip to Scotland in '91

Action from '91 as Dublin's Vinny Murphy is tackled by Meath full-back Mick Lyons
Action from '91 as Dublin's Vinny Murphy is tackled by Meath full-back Mick Lyons
Legendary Meath supremo Sean Boylan

IT'S still there. The Buchanan Arms Hotel sits on the banks of Loch Lomond, most likely unenlightened as to its place in GAA history.

It's been 21 years since, after match three of the four-game Meath-Dublin saga, Boylan decided his team needed a change. Training weekends weren't common practice, but Boylan was a fresh thinker.

After all, he had taken a huge risk that winter and had his team do most of their fitness work in the pool, much to the chagrin of Gerry McEntee.

Boylan recalls how the Nobber man broached that issue. "Can you tell me how you are going to face the people of Meath when you are beaten in the first round of Leinster and they ask, 'How'd the training go?' and we say: 'We were f*****g swimming.'"

But Boylan recognised that these were extraordinary times that were taking their toll, even on his team of battle-hardened All-Ireland winners. "They needed a bit of a blowout. In the city you could get lost, but in the country that would never happen.

"It was an extraordinary time. The whole country was mad after Italia '90. But by the second Meath-Dublin match Maurice Setters and Jack Charlton were walking down Clonliffe Road. Setters loved Eamon Heery, Charlton was a Colm Coyle man."


They almost drove by the small Scottish town of Drymen. Boylan and the late Noel Keating of team sponsors Kepak were crammed into David Beggy's Ford Escort on their way to recce a place in St Andrews. A chance pit stop changed Boylan's mind.

"There was a feel about the place. We made the arrangements. It was just right. It had all the things we wanted. Then it was a case of going home and getting on to the lads, which was a job because there wasn't mobiles at the time. Feile was on in Meath at the same time, so there wasn't an official from Meath who could come so Joe Cassells, who had retired, was brought to look after us.

"What we didn't tell them was that we were bringing the girls as well because of the sacrifices they had made."

Keating's day had begun in the Department of Agriculture. He suspected the meeting could run on and arranged for Boylan to spring him from the conference.

"Noel had a meeting with Michael O'Kennedy, the Minister for Agriculture. He arranged for me to ring the Department of Agriculture with an urgent call for Noel so he had to leave the meeting with the minister. And he had 600 people working for him at the time!"

Player welfare wasn't high on anyone's agenda at the time, but Meath were well looked after. Official sponsorship had come in 1991 and Boylan struck a simple deal with the county board -- for every pound that went to them, a pound went to the players' fund.

And Boylan delved into that fund after game three and, recognising their need for a 'blowout', allowed the players to have a drink on the first night.

"We had to hire a plane because we couldn't get a plane," recalls the Dunboyne legend. "There was a great atmosphere. I remember the pilot came out and said we were flying over Carlanstown where Martin O'Connell is from. I used to fly planes and the lads were panicking when they thought I was flying, but I was only in the engineer's seat. We had a great night the first night. A lot of the lads were great singers. Bobbie O'Malley was a trained singer. There were session men all over the place and it was a great night.

"Did they have jar? Yeah, they had jar, but the clever ones knew they would pay for it the next day if they overdid it. One or two of the younger fellas got caught out a bit when it came to the work we had to do.

"On the Sunday morning we had one training session -- all ball. And you know (Kevin Foley's) famous goal that happened. In that session, we did nothing else but movement like that for 40 minutes."

"When Dublin got the penalty and I was around the other side in the stand and I remember they were shouting, 'Go away ya bleedin' witch doctor'. I said to Liam (Hayes), 'even if they score we'll still beat them, just tell the lads to start throwing them around like they did last Sunday'.

"And they opened up."

The rest is history.

Irish Independent

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