Football in Meath has had many glorious days, some of which have yielded no silverware, but have demonstrated the passion with which Meath players approach the game. The determination and work ethic that Meath players traditionally display has resulted in the county earning many honours.
Meath have contested 16 All-Ireland Football Finals, and have won 7 of them. The winning years were 1949, 1954, 1967, 1987, 1988, 1996 and 1999 while Meath were runners-up in 1895, 1939, 1951, 1952, 1966, 1970, 1990, 1991 and 2001.
Meath’s first appearance in an All-Ireland SFC Final was on 15th March , 1896 when they played Tipperary in the previous year’s decider. The Royal County was represented by the Pierce O’Mahony’s club from Navan and their opponents were Tipperary Club Champions, Annavale Rovers, who won by 0-4 to 0-3 in controversial circumstances.
Pierce O’Mahony’s (17 players): A. Murray (Capt.), H. Pentlelan, P. Clarke, J. Hegarty, J. Russell, G.W. Toome, J. A. Shaw, B. McCabe, P. Fox, J. Elliot, M. Rogers, C. Curtis, J. Quinn, V. McDermott, J. Fitzpatrick, J. Shankey, P. Daly.
Over four decades passed before Meath reached their second All-Ireland Final in 1939, and on this occasion the opposition was provided by a mighty Kerry team, powered by the likes of Dan O’Keeffe, Dan Spring, Mick Keohane and Sean Brosnan. Meath were on the losing end again.
Meath: H. McEnroe, P. Beggan, T. McGuinness, P. Donnelly, T. Meade, O, Reilly, J. Kearney, T. Loughran, M. O’Toole, M. Gilsenan, W. Brien, J. Cummins, K. Devin.
Subs: H. Lynch for Brien, M. Cllinton for O’Toole
One of the great days in Meath GAA history – arguably the greatest – came in September 1949 when the men in green and gold brought the Sam Maguire Cup to the county for the first time. They led Cavan by 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time and ran out winners by 1-10 to 1-6.
Meath: K. Smyth, M. O’Brien, P. O’Brien, K. McConnell, S. Heeny, P. Dixon, C. Hand, P. Connell, J. Kearney, F. Byrne, B. Smyth, M. McDonnell, P. Meegan, B. Halpenny, P. McDermott.
Subs: P. Carolan for Byrne
Meath were beaten by Mayo when they lost by 0-9 to 2-8, but one of the problems which the Royal County faced that day was that vaccinations for the trip to the USA for the NFL Final had taken their toll. This was Mayo’s second successive All-Ireland Title.
Meath: K. Smyth, M. O’Brien, P. O’Brien, K. McConnell, J. Heeny, C. Kelly, C. Hand, D. Taaffe, P. Connell, F. Byrne, M. McDonnell, P. Meegan, B. Smyth, J. Reilly, P. McDermott Subs: P. Dixon for Hand, Hand for Heeny
Cavan gained revenge for their 1949 defeat when they beat Meath by 0-9 to 0-5 in a replayed final of the 1952 Championship.
Meath: K. Smyth, M. O’Brien, P. O’Brien, K. McConnell, T. O’Brien, C. Kelly, C. Hand, B. Maguire, D. Taaffe, D. Brennan, B. Smyth, P. Meegan, M. McDonnell, J. Reilly, P. McDermott.
Eight members of the 1949 team represented Meath when they won their second All-Ireland Title in 1954 by defeating Kerry in the final. They were Michael and Paddy O’Brien, KEvin McConnell, Paddy Connell, Brian Smyth, Mattie McDonnell, Paddy Meegan and 36 year-old Peter McDermott.
Meath: P. McGearty, M. O’Brien, P. O’Brien, K. McConnell, K. Lenihan, J. Reilly, N. Dunnin, P. Connell, T. O’Brien, M. Grace, B. Smyth, M. McDonnell, P. Meegan, T. Moriarty, P. McDermott.
Meath’s display in the 1966 Final against Galway was very poor and they lost by 1-10 to 0-7. Galway were quite brilliant and never allowed Meath to settle. The losers didn’t score from play in the first half and were trailing 1-6 to 0-1 at the break.
Meath: S. McCormack, D. Donnelly, J. Quinn, P. Darby, P. Collier, B. Cunningham, P. Reynolds, P. Moore, T. Browne, T. Brennan, M. O’Sullivan, D. Carty, G. Quinn, N. Curran, O. Shanley.
Subs: M. White for Shanley, T. Fagan for Carty, M. Quinn for Fagan
Pat “Red” Collier promised after the 1966 final defeat by Galway that the Royal County would be back in the decider the following year and he was right. The Royal County started badly and went in at half-time with only a single point on the board to Cork’s 0-4. Meath had suffered many heartbreaking defeats in the previous years and came out for the second half determined to win, which they did in the end by 1-9 to 0-9.
Meath: S. McCormack, M. White, J. Quinn, P. Darby, P. Collier, B. Cunningham, P. Reynolds, P. Moore, T. Kearns, T. Brennan, M. Kerrigan, M. Mellett, P. Mulvany, N. Curran, O. Shanley.
With players of the calibre of Mick O’Connell, John O’Keeffe and Dan Joe Crowley, Kerry defeated Meath by 2-19 to 0-18 in the 1970 final in front of 70,000 spectators.
Meath: S. McCormack, M. White, J. Quinn, B. Cunningham, O. Shanley, T. Kearns, P. Reynolds, V. Foley, V. Lynch, T. Brennan, M. Kerrigan, M. Mellett, K. Rennicks, J. Murphy, M. Daly.
Subs: P. Moore for Mellett, B. Bligh for Kearns
While Cork started well in this final, Mick Lyons blocked a sure goal in the first quarter and Colm O’Rourke scored at the other end 7 minutes later to leave Meath leading 1-6 to 0-8 at half-time and taking the honours 1-14 to 0-11 at the full-time whistle.
Meath: M. McQuillan, R. O’Malley, M. Lyons, T. Ferguson, K. Foley, L. Harnan, M. O’Connell, L. Hayes, G. McEntee, D. Beggy, J. Cassells, P.J. Gillic, C. O’Rourke, B. Stafford, B. Flynn.
Subs: C. Coyle for Cassells, P. Lyons for O’Connell.
Meath and Cork were to meet again in 1988, twice. The first game finished level Meath 0-12 Cork 1-9. Brian Stafford scoring the equalising point from a free awarded to David Beggy 30 seconds from the end. The Replay was a tough game and Meath were down to 14 men after 6 minutes when Gerry McEntee was sent off. They only trailed by a point 0-6 to 0-5 at half-time. the final score was 0-13 to 0-12 in favour of Meath.
Meath: M. McQuillan, R. O’Malley, M. Lyons, T. Ferguson, C. Coyle, L. Harnan, M. O’Connell, L. Hayes, G. McEntee, D. Beggy, J. Cassells, P.J. Gillic, C. O’Rourke, B. Stafford, B. Flynn.
Subs: M. McCabe for Gillic.
Meath and Cork met for the third time in four years in the 1990 final and finally managed to put one over on the Royal County. This time Cork lost a player early in the match and although Meath battled hard the victory went to Cork.
Meath: Donal Smyth, Robbie O’Malley, Mick Lyons, Terry Ferguson, Brendan Reilly, Kevin Foley, Martin O’Connell, Liam Hayes, Gerry McEntee, David Beggy, P.J. Gillic, Colm Brady, Colm O’Rourke, Brian Stafford, Bernard Flynn.
Subs: Colm Coyle for Brady, Joe Cassells for McEntee and Tommy Dowd for Beggy.
The Final in 1991 was overshadowed to some extent by the campaign through Leinster as Meath and Dublin played 4 games before Meath finally won, and then Wicklow also took Meath to a replay. Roscommon only lost the Semi-Final by a point 0-15 to 1-11. The final was played against Down and was another hard-fought contest which Meath lost on a score-line of 1-16 to 1-14.
Meath met Mayo in the Final in 1996 and the first game ended in a draw 1-9 to 0-12. Meath made one change for the replay, starting Colm Brady instead of Evan Kelly. The replay was a tense affair with both teams losing men – Meath took the honours on a scoreline of 2-9 to 1-11.
Back:T.Giles, G.Geraghy, J.McDermott, J.McGuinness, B.Callaghan, M.O’Connell, C.Brady, T.Dowd, B.Reilly, Front : P.Reynolds, M.O’Reilly, C.Coyle, C.Martin, D.Fay, E.McManus.
Meath faced their old foes Cork in this final and an Ollie Murphy goal separated the sides at half-time 1-5 to 0-5. Cork started the second half well but Meath lasted the pace better and ran out winners on a final score-line of 1-11 to 1-8.
Back:T.Giles, J.McDermott, G.Geraghty, D.Fay, C.Sullivan, N.Crawford, H.Traynor, N.Nestor, C.Murphy, Front: M.O’Reilly, D.Curtis, E.Kelly, P.Reynolds, O.Murphy, E.McManus.
Meath had demolished Kerry in the Semi-Final (2-14 to 0-5) and then they faced Galway in the final. The 1998 winners were unfazed by Meath’s huge win and beat the Royal County comfortably 0-17 to 0-8.
Meath: Cormac Sullivan, Mark O’Reilly, Darren Fay, Cormac Murphy, Donal Curtis, Nigel Nestor, Hank Traynor, Nigel Crawford, John McDermott, Evan Kelly, Trevor Giles, Richie Kealy, Ollie Murphy, Graham Geraghty, Ray Magee.