The immediate aftermath of the 1995 #Leinster football final was one of the few occasions tears were shed over a match result. Now, as was stated to someone a while ago, heartache that day was somewhat nullified by the kindness of #Dublin’s Paul Curran thereafter.
Greatest sadness, though, came not only from that particular result, but a pondering of what was to come for Meath football. Having been aware of but absent from the most glorious of days between 1986 and 1988, I gleefully clung to the coat tails of that particular era. The National League of four quarters in 1990, and then 1991. Well, the latter doesn’t require any further articulation, does it?!
However, what followed for four successive years – with the exception of a league win in 1994 – was akin to the implosions more recently endured by Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth when they each had one of golf’s top gongs at their respective mercies. 1992 could be put down to fatigue, both physical and mental, by the time a Hugh Emerson inspired Laois rolled in Navan.
The following year was, in ways, the most heartbreaking. Simply as it was the best display I had the pleasure of seeing Colm O’Rourke give in the few years towards the end of his career that were witnessed. That day, it appeared the Skryne man could indeed kick balls around corners. He essayed five of them over John O’Leary’s head – including a monstrous score which appeared to have rescued his side – only to see that bid undone by an equally swashbuckling effort from Jack Sheedy.
Championship 1994 was a bit of a calamity for a few reasons from a Meath perspective while, looking back, the following always had a strange feel to it. O’Rourke was left out of the starting fifteen for the opener against Offaly – a game that was halted for a brief period due to a torrential downpour – before going on to be Meath’s best performer for what remained of that summer.
Stranger still, ten minutes into the second half on the fateful day against Dublin, an Evan Kelly goal put Sean Boylan’s men a point up. Indeed, perhaps it was that, coupled with the eventual outcome, which led to worry as to where things were going. So much so that what was one of only a few times Boylan’s mandate was challenged materialised.
He survived and we all know what happened next. Calls for change within certain aspects of GAA need to be mindful of that. Change for the sake of it helps nothing. Everyone knows that football – and to lesser extent hurling – has become unsightly. The black card has done nothing to remedy that, but getting rid of it won’t either.
One prominent pundit recently used the re-introduction of the ‘Mark’ as a point of ridicule. This corner has and will always be a fan of the stipulation rewarding high fielding but essentially the point that the proposed alterations for introduction next aren’t the answer is wholly valid. While repetitiveness is one of the greatest foibles of this trade, if a point retains relevance it shouldn’t be let up on. All of which turns thoughts to what transpires on an all too regular basis nowadays as teams appear to be almost paralysed into playing football – or what currently passes for same – a certain way.
It’s important to pluralise at this point. The simple thing to do might be to apportion blame for current trends in the game to one quarter. That, however, cannot hide the reality that in alarming number of teams have resembled sheep going out a gap in copying the prototype. Even though few, if any, are as adept at the new culture vulture as those who originally propagated it.
What’s astonishing is that nobody seems to have realised the best team the game has seen in decades don’t buy into it. Sorting it out, to me, would take a few simple adjustments. The black card hasn’t done it and the mark won’t either. What the game needs is a properly defined tackle, similar to what pertains to Australian Rules and the hybrid version thereof which our players all too seldom engage in.
That and (a) a dictum limiting the number of consecutive handpasses permissible and (b) a proclamation in relation to the prohibition of backward passes. Whatever about Dublin laying waste to the infesting fads, it’s hardly coincidence that it was Tyrone’s abandonment of the nonsense that enabled Sean Cavanagh – in particular – and Peter Harte and Kieran McGeary to execute the long range, match winning scores against Donegal.
Now contrast that to the dross that inhibited the majority of that game, or the similar scenario which left Roscommon too terrified to go and beat Galway with the game at their mercy. The concluding period produced the sort of fare people like to see. Thing is, they’re not going to fork out for a few minutes entertainment. That’s already showing.