Better days for our minors. I mentioned this on the Video's thread. Rory's stories recollection on our minors in 2004.
A Royal Hiding
Minor football is a great competition, giving young lads a chance to represent their county and the possibility of running out onto the Holy Grail that is Croke Park at 17 or 18 years of age.
Well Back in 2004, I was part of the Meath minor team who genuinely believed we had a serious chance of something special that year, we had a huge big, strong, physical team, all big hardy bucks who were clearly all well fed growing up!!
We had some class acts involved that year, including Cian Ward, Jamie Queeney and current Meath captain Kevin Reilly, along with plenty more talented county minors.
We played in both the Ulster and Leinster league as part of our preparation for the championship campaign. One of our first games of the Leinster league campaign was away to Laois, who were the current defending All –Ireland champion’s at the time, who still had most their team underage and eligible to ‘run-a-mok’ again that year. We travelled down to Stradbally in early February and put in a savage performance, Laois had most there big guns playing that day, including Brendan Quigley, Craig Rogers and Michael J Tierney.
I think we won by maybe 3 or 4 points that day and we believed we were going to win the All Ireland after it, as we thought that was Laois at full strength and we were missing the St. Pats of Navan lads!
Little did we know that Sean Dempsey, Laois manager, ran the bollix out of them the night before that game to give us false hope, “I’ll run the lads heavy before the Meath game, no harm in letting the Royalers beat us and get cocky, we’ll sort that come May”.
I’m convinced that this is what the cute whore Dempsey said to one of his selectors, as we had drawn them in the first round of the Leinster championship later that year.
So Dempsey wanted us to think that this was the Laois team’s full deck of cards that we had beaten on their home patch. Well my lord jaysus wasn’t that a big mistake!!
We also played the Ulster league in the build-up to the showdown with men from the O’Moore County. We had beaten Tyrone, Down, and Armagh so we felt that we were really ready to give Leinster a serious whack.
A Different Story
That fateful day in May came around fairly quick; I remember it well as it was one of the hottest days of the year, dreadful tough weather to be running around after nippy corner forwards.
Wiping the sweat onto the sleeve of your jersey while saying to yourself “Jaysus I’m bolloxed altogether- am I fit at all”!
We warmed up on the back pitch in Navan, sprinted over and back like eejits thinking we were ready to bully this star studded Laois outfit for the next 60 minutes.
If my memory serves me right, Laois barely did a warm-up that day, they just simply did a light jog and a good stretch, to conserve all their energy for the exhibition of football they were about to give.
They arrived in Navan that day with Sean Dempsey leading them into the dressing room like a well Drilled Army General, ready to display their football gifts and leave the rest of Ireland dreading the thought of coming up against them.
My god did they give us a football lesson that afternoon.
When the ball was thrown in, you could tell straight away that this Laois team meant business.
They were, and still to this day are, the best minor football team I’ve ever seen or played against, that day they just clicked and it was torture trying to stop them.
They had three big men, Brendan Quigley, who I had a decent tussle with, Colm Begley and Cahir Healy, the rest where small, fast and highly gifted, no more so than Donnie Brennan, my god he was a genius of a minor footballer, there was more weight on a starved cat, but he didn’t need any size or stature as he was a step ahead of the game all day long, a young Gooch Cooper in the making.
They ran around us picking out passes for fun, we certainly didn’t do ourselves justice that day, far from it, but looking back on it now you have to admire how class that team was. One big man in the middle jumping for kick outs, and three or four little terriers under the breaks waiting to come at you in droves and put the ball between the sticks, absolute relentless waves of attacks.
We might have had a small glimmer of hope that day when Quigley got sent off, I was having a bit of an argy bargee with him and I knew he was getting wound up, we had a tussle for a hop ball and he got thick and hit a lad a box in the puss.
The box was harmless enough to tell you the truth, but he got the line for it, which gave us a boost, but this only lifted Laois more and they upped the tempo once again. They were absolute flyers; I would have had more enjoyment and a better chance at chasing a young hen around a golf course than catching them lads.
They went onto trounce us that day, 2-15 to 1-5, we could have no complaints as they gave one of the greatest displays from any minor team on any given day, Unfortunately, for myself and 20 other lads, we had to be their prey on that very warm May afternoon in Pairc Tailteann, Navan.