Meath break the GAA mould again

Peter McDermott is surely a unique figure in the annals of the GAA. That he wore a flat cap when out on the playing field may not have been that off the wall at the time. But now consider that he won an All Ireland medal in 1949, refereed the decider in 1953 and captained the Royal County to their second outright triumph in 1954. A piece of history that – it can fairly safely be wagered – will never be repeated.

That in itself would be an astounding epitaph for any GAA man but also factor in that the former egg delivery man brought his then charges – as incumbent All Ireland Champions down to Australia in 1968. That’s still a monumental conquest for anybody in this day and age, so you can only imagine what it was like back then.

Actually, over the years I’ve been fortunate enough and honoured to get to know some of those who made that ground-breaking expedition heading for 54 years ago now. None more so than team captain Peter Darby, the fulcrum of the forward line Mattie Kerrigan and the great Mick O’Brien of Walterstown.

Through life’s jigs and reels, I’ve actually come under the wing of someone who was actually being taught by Mick in Kells at the time of the excursion to the backside of the world. My colleague only recently told me of the fact that upon his return from Down Under he presented each of his students with a souvenir tiepin. Thinking outside of the box.

Something which underpinned both Mick’s tenure as Meath manager – highlighted by the shock victory over Dublin in the 1975 National League Final and elements of the county’s contribution to the Association in a overall sense. The highlight of which – for this corner at least – was the motion proposed by renowned St Colmcille’s official Pat O’Neill. When passed, it became the foundation stone upon which the International Rules Series against Australia was built. The idea having been conceived, it is assumed, as a knock-on effect of Meath’s historic trip.

Mick O’Brien with current Meath U-20 boss John McCarthy and the Tom Markham Cup in in 1990

This week, in an unusually progressive move, the Royal County have again broken new ground. In this instance, by way of the midweek announcement that both the Ladies’ and Gents SFC Finals would form a double header in Pairc Tailteann on November 7th.

The initiative marks another high point in increased integration and co-operation between Meath GAA. After a very long and winding road to get here. In some cases, parish pump sporting politics providing the biggest impediment preventing it from being much further on long ago.

However, it is only right to give credit where earned and Meath chiefs have certainly upped their game considerably when it comes to unity across the board(s).

Mind you, this latest development takes things to another level altogether. How many will follow?

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