When the victorious Meath team of 1999 made their first stop on the homecoming tour in Dunboyne, Sean Boylan spoke of how, nine earlier, Enda McManus and Graham Geraghty carried the Tom Markham Cup up the middle of the village after Meath’s All Ireland MFC win. Nine years later, the Herbalist said: “Today is the dawning of a new era, for a new group of players, who are proud to carry the torch”.
Every generation takes inspiration from those who went before them. Thirty years ago today, November 9th, 1991, Dunboyne won the Meath Primary Schools Div. 1 title for the first time. Seven years later, the nucleus of that team backboned the group that delivered the Keegan Cup to the town for the first time.
And so it followed that those who were of school going age in ’98 were involved for our victory in 2005 and so that cycle continued in 2018. To return to the Minor success of 1990, it was possibly the greatest manifestation of the old adage ‘Success breeds success’ there could be. For just two years later, another talented bunch of young Royals again too the Markham Cup across the banks of the Boyne and in 1996 the two teams combined – along with some of what was another good U-18 panel in ’93 and some older decorated warriors – to deliver a first Sam Maguire triumph in eight years.
That same year, seven of the senior panel won Leinster U-21 FC medals and were desperately unlucky not to at the very least qualify an All Ireland Final having had to field in the replayed games against a Cavan side driven by stars of the Breffni County such as Anthony Forde,Peter and Larry Reilly, Dermot McCabe and Mickey Graham, without the services of Mark O’Reilly who had his ribs broken in the senior semi final. But then, some people can do no wrong in the eyes of the masses and are constantly put forward for near beatification.
Last Sunday, the heroes of that unlikely 1996 success were the Guests Of Honour at half time in the Meath SFC Final. Even though regrettably I never got down to chat to any of the lads – many of whom I have been both blessed and honoured to befriend over the years – just seeing them all together again brought all the treasured memories come flooding back and this corner has no problem admitting to getting quite emotional about it all. Yes there were deeply personal reasons for that too, but that aside they really were perfect days. Days that shaped the rest of my life.
Also honoured on the day, naturally were our All Ireland winning Minor lads and lady footballers. Indeed, one of the nicest moments of the entire day was seeing the young lads afford their fellow champions a guard of honour as they departed the field prior to the commencement of the men’s final. Thereafter the thought occurred to me – did the young lads, or kids in the crowd for that matter, realise they were flanked on all sides by giants of the game in Meath,
The reality, of course, is that none of the heroes of this year’s Tom Markham triumph were born when the county’s second coming under Sean was at its zenith. Truth be told, there’s a whole generation of youngsters who haven’t had a whole lot of success onto which to latch. You’d hope this year’s minors, if they do not already, will in time learn of the deeds of the greatness which was in their midst last Sunday.
For, though they won’t see or understand it now, the two teams highlighted at the County Final from the present era will be those whom the school kids of the future – particularly those playing in Cumann Na mBunscoill at present – will strive to emulate in the years to come. Thus will the wheels keep turning and the hope that more glory days will come in their own good time is what keeps some of us going.