A Sort of Homecoming

May 21, 2020

Meath captain Joe Cassells is congratulated after the game

The ‘homecoming”, most of us would have experienced one or two or three or four or maybe even five. Nothing beats the excitement of seeing the Sam Maguire Cup making its way across the Dublin border to rest in the Royal County for the next year.

Royal County Meath Yearbook carried this report from 1988 after Cork were beaten in the replay. It was joy on the double for Meath that October in Croke Park with the Juniors also taking home an All Ireland crown.

With all due respect to the great men from North Dublin, U2’s well known hit ‘a Sort of Homecoming’ would hardly have been the perfect song to go on air in Navan on Monday, 10th October. This was of course the night the victorious senior and junior teams came home and what a reception they received.

This wasn’t just ‘a Sort of Homecoming’ this was the whole of Meath expressing their feelings and showing their gratitude to those who had done the county proud the previous day. John Dowling’s remarks failed to dampen the Meath players spirits in Kilmainham Hospital and then its was on to Kepak in Clonee for another reception.

Next stop was Dunboyne where of course Sean Boylan, Brendan Reilly and Paddy McIntyre held centre stage.

Yet another All Ireland medal had wound it’s way into the South meath town, following those already won by Brian Smyth and Jim Reilly (father of Brendan).

A large turnout lined the streets of Dunshaughlin, the home of county junior midfielder Trevor Kane and then it was on to Skryne.

Ross Cross could not have seen such a cavalcade of cars and buses before. Liam Hayes and Colm O’Rourke could not have asked for as warmer reception. (Skryne folk will tell you that the real celebrating was done on top of the hill).

Next on the list was Navan where the largest crowd had gathered. The streets around the centre of the town had been cordoned off since early evening.

The organisers had learned their lesson too - the ovation stand was erected on the bottom of the Fair Green and despite the abundance of flags and banners, almost everyone had a reasonable view. 

After all the dignitaries had their say, captain Joe Cassells addressed his home crowd. Chants of ‘Joe’ and ‘Gerry’ could be heard clearly and the big man expressed the hope that the side would be back to complete the three in a row.

But amidst all the glory and national attention Cassells didn’t forget his own club. “With such dedicated supporters as you why wouldn’t we retain the Keegan Cup” he declared.

He also had a warm word for Mr. De Le Salle himself Paddy O’Brien “a man who has thought me all I know”

Sean Boylan found it impossible to name those who had helped him throughout the campaign. He thanked amongst others Eamonn O’Farrell, “Mockey” Regan, Mick “Scups” White, Dr. Jack Finn, Corkonion Kevin Hourihane, Frankie and Paul Byrne.

Physio Ann Burton was also highly complimented with Boylan commenting “we proved that we don’t need to go to Old Trafford for injuries because we have the best physio in the land here”.

These comments didn’t go down well with one of Cork’s ‘true sportsman” Danny Allen - a touch of bitterness perhaps. Boylan continued to sing the praises of fellow selectors Tony Brennan and Pat Reynolds and County Board officials Fintan Ginnity and Liam Creavin to whom he referred to as the “power being the team”.

He introduced the players according to their clubs and man of the moment Gerry McEntee addressed the crowd “what I did was wrong, very wrong and I apologise for it”. He commended the efforts of the team and handed over to his friend Colm O’Rourke.

O’Rourke talked of the “wave of emotion” that the supporters generated. The three in a row was to the fore in his speech also, but he warned that things wouldn’t be so rosey during the forthcoming league campaign - how right he proved.

The celebrations continued in the Ardboyne Hotel where Meath County Council hosted a reception. John McEnroe and the Oldcastle crew were among the first to leave. They had an engagement in their native town which by all accounts went on until three or four o”clock the following morning.

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