Where are they now?
(Former Meath footballer)
Meath have an epic history. Championship summers defined by great battles between the Royal county and their rivals. The duel between the reigning All-Ireland football champions and neighbours Kildare for a Leinster final berth electrified the early summer of 1997.
Tommy Dowd, the man who lifted Sam Maguire in 1996, was a central figure in the high drama that unfolded over three matches.
"One of the memories that stands out for me was the support Kildare had. The stands in Croke Park were full of white jerseys and flags. They are huge football people in Kildare, like Meath. It was unbelievable," he recalls.
Mick O'Dwyer had taken charge of Kildare and not only did he galvanise their supporters, he revolutionised their style.
"We were aware of what they could do. Their short-passing game was unbelievable and it was very difficult to play against. Their fitness levels were very high. They ran from deep and you had to be very fit to play against them."
Meath managed to finally put the Kildare challenge to the sword in the third game of the series but Dowd reckons that Kildare team underachieved and should have won an All-Ireland.
Dowd had to wait till the end of the century for his second All-Ireland medal.
"Three years (between All-Ireland wins) probably wasn't that long when you think of other counties but Meath were getting to Leinster finals and All-Irelands every few years so it was a bit of a wait. Ollie Murphy and Mark O'Reilly, who got man of the match, were brilliant that day against Cork."
Dowd has two Meath championship medals, the first won with Dunderry and the second with Wolfe Tones, to add to his collection. When he retired from playing he became part of Meath's management team under Colm Coyle for two years.
"It was very enjoyable but time-consuming. It's never the same as playing because when you're on the pitch and something's going wrong you can try and do something about it but it's different when you're sitting on the line."
Dowd runs an oil company and will be at Croke Park today with his two daughters to watch the latest instalment in a rivalry that has become one-sided in recent years.
"The game against Dublin in 2010 showed that on a day like that anything can happen. There hasn't been too much in it over the last five games and I don't think anyone would be overly shocked if Meath pulled it off."
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