16 August 1997 - Offaly vs. Meath

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Bord na Mona man
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16 August 1997 - Offaly vs. Meath

Post by Bord na Mona man » Thu Aug 16, 2007 6:53 pm

16 August 1997 - Offaly vs. Meath in the Leinster final

10 years ago to the day. In fact it was it was after 6 in the evening when the final whistle went and Offaly football came back from a Siberian like exile.
The transformation from Division 4 make weights to Leinster champions was remarkable. Back when a Leinster title was valuable currency and before numpty counties managed to win it.

I was 19 at the time and so memories of glory days in Offaly football were virtually non-existent. We were a world away from the Meaths and Dublins by then.
Offaly footballers in the championship were days when we drew with the Wicklows, lost to the Wexfords and got tanked by Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Laois.

The memories of that great day will live long. I watched the video so many times in the days weeks and months afterwards. The tape is well banjaxed now and I haven't looked at it lately.

From memory this is how it unfolded.
Stream of consciousness warning. I couldn't do justice to it in prose anyway

Offaly storm out of the blocks and take an early lead.
David Reynolds opens the scoring, Quinn follows up with a point. Both with the left boot and both in off the post.
Peter Brady scores two lovely points too.
The madness starts when Roy Malone sticks home a shot from 20 yards out.
The scoreboard reads 1-4 to 0-0. Christ Almighty.
Meath the reigning All Ireland champions. Are Offaly mad are what!
Offaly lead by the exact same score 2 years previously in Navan and only scored one more point.
1-4 to 0-0 became 1-5 to 1-15!

Then Brendan Reilly starts to give Larry Carroll the runaround.
Meath tack over a couple of points and normal service resumes.
Or does it. Next thing Vinny Claffey is bearing down on goal and stitches it.
Bedlam in the stadium!
Ronan Mooney follows up with a fisted point.
Offaly 10 points in front. 2-6 to 0-2.
The terror I felt at that stage...if we manage to lose this game after that.
Spending 50 minutes being chased down by the Meath, like a tired hare evading the rabid hounds at a coursing meet.
The prospect of it. Holy shit, but we were better off letting them win from the start.

Meath find their rhythm and close out the half better. At half time the score in 2-6 to 0-7.
5 points is nothing. The weakness in my legs as I stood up to stretch them.

5 minutes into the second half and the gap is down to 3.
That sinking feeling. Lower the lifeboats.
Offaly still managed to get the odd breakout score to keep in front.
Peter Brady scores an over the shoulder point from out near the sideline.

The turning point came with Roy Malone's stunning "goal of the year".
Soloing half the length of the field before letting rip for goal as the Meath defence close on him.
He hardly expects to score from there, the mad hoor?
Christ, but the ball has sizzled into the bottom corner of the net.
The junkies around Croke Park have never felt THIS good!

Suddenly the trophy looks to be ours.
Hold out now and we can do it.
With 5 minutes to go Offaly lead by 7.
Jimmy McGuinness ghosts in behind the Offaly defence and suddenly Padraig Kelly is picking it out of the net.
The rockets go off in the Canal End from the Meath fans.

Meath the great escape artists are at it again.
They closed out with 6 in a row in previous All Ireland to draw with Mayo.
Twice they did the same to Kildare in the previous round.
Here they go again and I can't believe it.

The magic mullet from Doon begs to differ.
Vinny Claffey has waited 32 years for this day and will not allow something as insignificant as 15 Meath men deny him his destiny.
From the kick out, he seizes the ball from John Kenny, lances through the Meath defence and sticks it over the bar.
He sticks over 2 more in the last minute just to make sure. Quinn chips over his 4th point of the day and the cushion is 8.

Brian Gavin goes sprinting down the steps of Cusack towards the perimeter, he hasn't moved that fast before or since.
Jaysus but it's really happening.
In the frenzy as we head down towards the pitch, I get tangled in the flagpole and it takes an age to break free.
The whistle goes. The Faithful are back!

3-17 to 1-15

Leaving Croke Park almost in daze that evening. The Dubs coming out of their houses to goad Meath and salute Offaly.
The celebrations that night were something else. Watching the video down in the pub that night.
Seeing Chris Willis and the Clara lads going nuts in front of the TV cameras in footage that was used for many a GAA clip afterwards by RTE and TG4.
In the Mill House that night Barry Flynn struggled to spin the discs as the stage dives and moshing kept making his CD deck skip.

In the small hours of the morning and a couple of us are hanging around the square pondering the road home. A van pulls up and David Reynolds flops out. A quick consultation and we advise him which roads lead where as the square seems to resembles a maze.

Super times.

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Post by Muck Savage » Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:18 pm

:D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

Fair play to you Board na Mona!

You know that day sticks out more in my mind than the imprint of Seamus Derby sticking the Ball in a certin net in '82. I was only 9 and sitting on the auld lads knee in the hogan stand for that famous goal but it imprinted in my mind. As a football man '97 was the best day I had in croke Park, Limerick in '94 and the '82 classic were close but man oh man.
You know I felt leaving Navan in '95 that something was coming. Right they got a hiding in the 2nd half but for 35mins they were as good as there was in the country.
The biggest thing I remember from that leinster final was during the parade before the game when the teams were heading down under the Cusack stand (where I perched my arse), looking up at the Hill and someone from Offaly had a massive Red flare, I thought to myself we have these lads today. I'm convinced even thought they were missing a few lads due to all the carry on before, we'd have beaten them even with Mick Lyons togged out that day.
Roy's 2nd half goal was class, I'd say he never scored one remotly like in in trainng or even his dreams. When he set off from under the Hogan stand I was roaring at him to pass it, when he took the shot I remember shouting "ya Bo*&$x", when it hit the net, well.....

That was a great day, I'm really convinced that the current bunch of players have a Leinster in them if they are managed right, trained right and focused right.
I also think that that team in '97 should have been in a AI final. The Mayo game two weeks after was too soon, more so seeing every town, village and cross-roads in the county wanted the lads out with the cup for the lead-up. Easiest AI Kerry ever won.

Didn't think a few months after I'd be training with those lads only to get the chop 2 weeks before a league Semi-final in '98...... Ah yes, my brush with a football career, Tommy Lyons if your reading this, yer a B@#$ox!

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Post by Offalys Future » Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:33 pm

The memories - i will never forget that day, i was in the Hogan Stand and it was such a great occasion.
Cant remember the game now but i went to a hurling game the next day in Croker, if memory serves me right it was Tipp and wexford maybe not.

Lets work to get back days like that back and memories like the above.
Great times is right.
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Post by Lone Shark » Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:37 pm

Brilliant stuff - both the day itself, and the recollection of it above. :D

Funny how the little things stick in the mind - whether through teenage naivety or whatever I was thinking that Roy was dead right to go for goal all along - I was shouting at him to keep going while the ould lad was the one preaching sense looking for him to take his point.

The semi against Mayo that year was a serious missed opportunity. A full forward line that scored 3-8 in the Leinster final was completely unable to cope on what was a woeful wet day, and you cannot tell me that with momentum behind them and Cathal Daly in the form of his life we couldn't have given the one man Kerry team a tough day in September. Still, we'll always have 3-17 against Meath. Brilliant stuff.

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Post by Fido » Thu Aug 16, 2007 11:03 pm

10 years ago today... well well well.
That day was one of those magic days that come along so very rarely and lift you into another place, where just for a moment everything else doesn't matter a damn. They're the days you remember when you're 103 and looking back on your life, not the crappy monday mornings going out to work.
Sometimes it seems that other counties get more of those days, maybe they do. But I think the rarity, the unexpectedness, the complete glory of a day like that is what really counts and makes it so special. You can get bored of anything, even winning. That's something we in Offaly can't be accused of these days! But a day like that, every now and again, is why any of us go to a match at all, or support our team. A special, special day.
We're due another, but knowing how rare those days really are makes you patient.
God bless you, Roy Malone.

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Post by manfromdelmonte » Thu Aug 16, 2007 11:46 pm

and the famous Nutron diet
only the best...

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Post by Fido » Thu Aug 16, 2007 11:47 pm

Whatever they were atin' that day, I'll have a bucket of it.

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Post by turk » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:49 am

A great day it was! I was working overnight on the night before and finished up that morning. i got the guts of the job done early and was delighted thinking i could finish up but the arab lad that was signing off on it said "don't start celebrating yet", i had to hang around for hours, the prick. I was wrecked

Jasus every score that day i was leaping about like a fool roaring and then i would hear yer man's voice going "don't start celebrating yet". Great relief when the final whistle did go, and great joy!!

Tipp v wexford was the match the next day, offaly's future, you are right

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Post by The Magpie » Fri Aug 17, 2007 10:51 am

Great write-up BNM !!

I vividly remember Chris Willis and Brendan Moran going haywire...great clip.
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Post by Doon Massive » Fri Aug 17, 2007 10:52 am

Ah yes, that famous day.
I came back from the isle of man just before the game, and it was worth it!
Was on the hill, and the place was going nuts. Most people were in disbelief.

And again, I think we are lucky to have had days like this.

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Post by black and red exile » Fri Aug 17, 2007 5:45 pm

Yeah I think every man, woman and child from Offaly was walking on air on that famous Saturday night 10 years ago and again 8 months later when we beat the Oak Leaf County to win our first football league title. What an awful pity that today we are back where we were when Tommy Lyons took over.

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Post by Bord na Mona man » Fri Aug 17, 2007 5:55 pm

The Magpie wrote:I vividly remember Chris Willis and Brendan Moran going haywire...great clip.
It was used by the Bank Of Ireland on their championship site the year after and on the opening credits of GAA Beo on TG4.
If the lads had been receiving royalties and image right payments, they would have cleaned up!

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Post by Bord na Mona man » Fri Aug 17, 2007 5:57 pm

turk wrote:Tipp v wexford was the match the next day, offaly's future, you are right
Indeed it was.
George O'Connor hit John Leahy some belt on the cheekbone that day.
Leahy was interviewed after and has face was in a pulp.

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Post by Superted » Fri Aug 17, 2007 11:05 pm

Great stuff BnM, I can still see it now Roy of the Rovers bearing down and goal, and then the net bursting!
Reynolds Collar up! Over the bar

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Post by The Rover » Sun Aug 19, 2007 2:10 pm

Thanks BnM Man for the memories.

That game certainly ranks for me as one of my favourite Offaly memories over the last 30 years. The 1982 final was certainly more historic and dramatic but 1997 just like the first Leinster Hurling final in 1980 and the All Ireland Hurling in 1998 (my other two favourites) these were matches we looked like winning all through and thus allowed us to savour every second of the action. In 82 and in the other All Ireland hurling finals we looked for long periods like we might lose and as a result of the asociated worry and pain these games don't seem to linger as vividly in the memory.

In 1997 aginst Meath we lead from start to finish and after 10 minutes we could just sit back and enjoy. Every single second could be savoured and enjoyed, the cigarette smoke that wafted across the stands seemed like it came from heaven itself, the ice cream sellers who pushed their way through the seated rows and blocked your view seemed like some sort of devine inspiration and yes even those Meath fans in the row behind you suddenly seemed like nice guys you could talk to. This was delerium, this was a collective high for Offaly fans.

It continued right into the night. I remember in the local pub after the game there was live music. The Offaly Rover must have been played 10 times and everbody sang at the top of thier voice. When was the last time this happened.?

On a wet Sunday a few weeks later Mayo went and ruined everything. Diagonal balls which had caused havoc against Meath suddenly skidded over the sideline on the wet surface, Mayo hands got in the way to block sublime passes and stopped us going on to claim what would in all probability have been an All Ireland title. Typical Mayo - look at last year's semi-final, they looked like worldbeaters against Dublin and were beaten after 10 minutes in the final.

I hope BnM man that when you write your 10 year review in 2017, we have a few more recent memories to look back on. I have given up on this decade but with some promising talent coming through I hope that in three or four years euphoria can reign supreme again for the Faithful.

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