During the early part of the summer of 1990, myself, ma, da and my eldest brother Des were on holiday in Co Kerry. It was the ideal time for a break, wheels carrying yours truly had just started rocking up at GAA matches. Meath had just won the National Football League – defeating Down on only my second sojourn into Croke Park but there was a gap before they were due out in Championship action.
We stayed with a man called John Lucas and his family in a farmhouse B&B – the only way the clan could persuade me to go as the Winter Barley harvest was just starting across the road from the house when we were pulling out. One was not a happy camper, to express it in a very docile fashion! As it happened, our host had a nephew playing on the Kerry Minor football team that season – John Cronin, and didn’t he end up playing full back against a Meath team skippered by our own Enda McManus in the All Ireland MFC Final.
Also in that Kingdom bunch was Billy O’Shea, but the star of the team was a guy called Jason Wieboldt who had wreaked havoc throughout the campaign up to that point. On the biggest day though, Enda successfully nullified the towering full forward’s influence as another pair of exceptionally gifted athletes and footballers – Graham Geraghty and Tony Byrne – illuminated what was a glorious occasion for the Royal County – our second claiming of the Tom Markham Cup and a first since 1957.
The script was supposed to read that day that our seniors would also triumph on football’s biggest day but what transpired was one of the darkest days in our football history as 14-man Cork cruised to the softest All Ireland title any team ever got as an inspired Shea Fahy had the game of his life.
That occasion came back to mind in the last week or so in the lead up to and on the occasion of the historic day at Pairc Tailteann last weekend when not only were the finals of the ladies and men’s SFC staged on the same ‘card’ but we in Dunboyne were blessed to have our top adult teams competing in both.
Unfortunately though, as you will have seen on these pages earlier in the day, it turned out to be a case of history repeating itself because the men’s team coming up short after not performing anywhere near to the level they are capable of came after our ladies had delivered a truly remarkable display in retaining their Meath LSFC title and claiming the Joe Breen Cup.
In a classic case of being victims of their own success, some may seek to downplay their achievement in again triumphing given that they possess in their armory the two finest female footballers in the country at present, Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan. However, such a synopsis would do a massive disservice to the rest of what is a magnificent Dunboyne bunch of players and management.
Indeed, it was some of those who have soldiered through good and bad for the Dunboyne cause who settled them into what was ultimately a winning groove. However, no surprisingly, Seneschalstown took the fight to Brendan Quinn’s side from the off and actually 0-05 to 0-03 at the first water break with the vastly experienced Mena Sheridan and Stacey Grimes to the fore.
After the first stoppage though, the defending champions visibly upped the tempo as Annie Moffatt and Deirdre Blaney began carrying the ball out of defence at pace and Julie Kavanagh worked tirelessly linking the rearguard and attack, providing a dynamically potent attacking unit reel off seven points on the spin to leave themselves clear by 0-10 to 0-07 at the midway point.
At that juncture, inclination would be to think the game was still in the balance but upon the resumption Wall and Duggan thundered into the occasion thereafter as the former scored one of the best goals seen in the old field for a long time, cutting in along the end line before blasting in at the O’Mahony’s end. For her part, the imperious Duggan closed with a personal tally of 0-8.
Arguably the biggest cheer of the day, mind you, arrived when former county dual star Aoife Thompson came on and curled over a magnificent point. Kavanagh and team captain Fiona O’Neill also deservedly raised green flags near the end to ice the cake. To the credit however, the Yellow Furze women battled on as would only be expected and a late penalty from Grimes was the least they deserved.
Seneschalstown will forever rank as one of the greatest teams Ladies Football – in Meath or anywhere else – has ever seen. Between themselves and St Ultan’s, they won almost every Senior Championship for two decades, with the Beauparc ladies backboned by such luminaries of the game in the Royal County as Mary and Mena Sheridan and their mother Ger, Grainne Nulty, Dearbhla O’Carroll and Fiona Mahon, to name but a few.
Fiona O’Neill is to be commended for acknowledging that they did in fact show the way for many teams who came after them. Thus Dunboyne did indeed learn from encountering their greatness and have gone on to emulate them.
This is a great time for Ladies Football in Dunboyne, to be cherished and savoured. Sport is cyclical and even though our girls had the upper hand on this occasion, the vanquished warriors showed enough to suggest they’ll be back claiming titles before long at all.
Gut feeling and earnest hope is what is a remarkable Dunboyne success story – remember the adult team was only reformed in 2014 – still has many chapters to write. Yet another will be opened weeks from now when they represent Meath in the Leinster Club Championship. Making the winter shorter one week at a time. Bonus territory!