21st Anniversary: Skryne are SFC kingpins

December 02, 2020

Mick O'Dowd shoots during the 1999 Meath SFC final against Dunshaughlin at Pairc Tailteann

In normal times clubs would be organising their Annual Dinner Dance’s and if they were lucky enough a Presentation night or honouring teams from the past that brought glory to the parish and county.

Over the next couple of weeks we will pay tribute to teams that were successful 21 years ago.

Skryne are kingpins for the 11th time (Royal County Meath Yearbook 1999)

What a year for the Skryne club, two All-Ireland medal winners, two international heroes, and best of all a senior team to be proud of. 

"What a team, what a club, what a parish"! It was difficult to disagree with the enthusiastic sentiments of Skryne captain Mick O' Dowd on receipt of the Keegan Cup following the Taramens' comprehensive victory over neighbours Dunshaughlin. The TEAM had improved as the championship progressed and, after an 'iffy' start to the campaign, emerged as clear-cut champions. The CLUB has been to the forefront of the GAA in Meath for several years and holds two of it's most significant records...they have been playing at senior level since winning the Intermediate title in 1937 and they are the only club to have had representatives on all of Meath's All-Ireland SFC winning teams. These are remarkable records by any standards. The PARISH? While it contains the county's most famous landmark within it's boundaries...a site that has led to Meath being known as the Royal County, it is fair to say that, nowadays, the parish is best known for producing footballers of the highest calibre...arguably the best in the country. Yes, Mick O' Dowd got it right! 

The most recent championship success was Skryne's 11th in total and was particularly sweet in that it occurred in a year in which Meath won the All-Ireland...nice to be the champion club in the champion county! In this regard, it was a repeat of the 1954 'double'. 

When the championship draws were made in February, there was the usual speculation about where the Keegan Cup might spend the winter. The Blues were among the favourites...the draw was not unkind with Moynalvey, Oldcastle, Dunderry and Blackhall Gaels providing the group opposition and the first published betting list had defending champions Dunboyne, Simonstown Gaels and Skryne as co-favourites at 5/1. Skryne subsequently drifted and Dunderry eventually emerged as favourites but the punters reckoned without the steely determination that was methodically nourished by Eamon Giles and his fellow selectors. It was an extremely gradual process. 

The starting XV. Front l-r: Martin Mulvany, Mick O'Dowd, Louis Pentony, David Donnelly, Brian Smyth, James Gibbons, Ciaran Murphy. Back l-r: Trevor Giles, John McDermott, Ken Pentony, Ken O'Connell, Ronan Mulvany, Philip Kinsella, Gordon Geraghty, Paul O'Donnell

The omens did not look particularly promising on February 21st. Simonstown Gaels visited Skryne for a first round League clash. The home team managed only five points and lost by six. Navan O Mahonys inflicted another defeat in the second round and Ballinlough emerged victorious in a third round clash. The only light at the end of the tunnel was that Trevor Giles was on the way back following a lengthy absence because of an injury sustained in the 1998 Leinster Final.

But Trevor was still an absentee for the first round championship clash with Moynalvey in Summerhill...he had been appointed as physiotherapist to the Irish Under-17 team that travelled to Australia to play their Aussie counterparts and the club was none too pleased that the game was fixed in his absence. 

Skryne had trounced Moynalvey in the previous year's championship, 6-19 to 1-3, and they were expected to have another comfortable win over the south county men. It didn't work out that way with the Blues having to come from behind to snatch a draw. Captain Mick O' Dowd, returning after a cruciate ligament injury, came to the rescue with a late point from a 45 metre free. O' Dowd contributed 7 points in total but the concession of 2 goals raised some questions about Skryne's defence. The final score was 0-14 to 2-8. 

A bye in the second round was seen as a possible advantage...it allowed additional time for a number of injuries to clear up. However, another League defeat, this time at the hands of St. Patricks, did little for morale and with six competitive games played, five league and one championship, the team had yet to register a victory! 

It was generally expected that championship ambitions would be back on schedule following the clash with Oldcastle at Pairc Tailteann but the 1998 runners-up provided stiff opposition and once again, it took a late pointed free, this time from Trevor Giles, to earn a share of the spoils. Luck was certainly on the side of the Skrynemen as many neutrals believed that the free was of the 'soft' variety. Mick O' Dowd's good form continued with a fine contribution of four points while Trevor Giles marked his return with six points. The final score was 0-12 apiece. It was mid-June and Skryne had played two championship games, had needed late points in both games to secure draws and hadn't scored a goal in either...scarcely the form of championship contenders. 

In the aftermath of the county final success in November manager Eamon Giles pinpointed the league victory over Cortown as the turning point. It was a tremendous game with the Taramen emerging on the right end of a 2-14 to 0-17 scoreline and it put the team in the best possible frame of mind for the crunch match with Dunderry at Trim. Dunderry were flying high; their three wins having already assured them of a place in the quarter-finals. It was the 'need to win' attitude on Skryne's part that emerged as the game's decisive factor. It was also significant that Tommy Dowd and Barry Callaghan were absentees for Dunderry with Dowd's absence a major surprise following his fine display against Offaly on the previous Sunday...it was the start of a troubled Summer for the Dunderry star. 

Manager Eamonn Giles

Consequently, Dunderry were disjointed and rudderless, and were lacking in motivation. Skryne weren't long about taking advantage and with Trevor Giles running the show, they re-emerged as serious championship contenders. In a fine team display, John McDermott, Mick O' Dowd, Brian Smyth, Martin Mulvaney and Gary Johnson also caught the eye. Declan Browne, victorious captain in 1992, returned to the starting 15 for the first time in six years and celebrated by finding the net within three minutes. The final score was 2-13 to 1-8, the second goal coming from Mick O' Dowd, who also missed a penalty. 

Because of Meath's involvement in the championship, the all-important clash with Blackhall Gaels was delayed until early September. Dunshaughlin was the venue and the 1998 Intermediate champions went into the game in exactly the same position as Skryne; four points from three games. The Blues looked the better team in the opening half but they were unable to have their superiority reflected on the scoreboard and their half-time lead of 0-7 to 0-4 was somewhat tenuous. 

But they upped the tempo in the third quarter before running out comfortable winners on a 0-18 to 1-9 scoreline. Ciaran Murphy emerged as top scorer with five points and eight players got on the winners' scoresheet. 

The result meant that both Dunderry and Skryne qualified with six points from their four games...Skryne were subsequently deemed to be the winners of the Group on the toss of a coin. Their quarter-final opponents would be Ballinlough while Dunderry went on to meet Summerhill. Meath's All-Ireland victory plus the involvement of John McDermott and Trevor Giles with the Irish team in Australia, meant that the quarter-final was not played until the end of October. Pairc Tailteann was the venue and, at the end of a difficult hour, Skryne were ahead by a point, 1-10 to 1-9. It was not a performance to inspire hopes of outright success but at least, a place in the last four had been secured. Ballinlough led by two points mid-way through the first half but they lost their momentum and Skryne took the lead on the stroke of half-time with a point from a Trevor Giles free. It was all-square with only ten minutes remaining but a Brian Smyth centre was finished superbly to the net by Giles for the game's decisive score. Mick O' Dowd added a point and although John McDermott 'conceded' a late goal, Skryne held out for a deserved victory. 

The composition of the team was changing significantly as the year progressed and the arrival of Ronan Mulvaney helped to tighten up a suspect defence. 

For the semi-final clash with neighbours and arch-rivals Walterstown, Martin Mulvaney was switched back to the defence, Brian Smyth was switched to attack after a spell at centre field with Paul O Donnell partnering John McDermott in the middle and Ciaran Murphy and James Gibbons were drafted into the attack. 

The eagerly awaited clash turned out to be something of a damp squib with Skryne signalling their intentions from the outset. They totally outplayed their opponents in the early stages and had established a commanding 0-9 to 0-0 lead after 20 minutes. Walterstown staged a mini-revival early in the second half but it was largely unconvincing and it was the Blues who advanced to the final by virtue of a 0-14 to 0-8 victory. 

Philip Kinsella made a superb save at a vital stage of the game, Trevor Giles scored seven points several of which were made possible by the astute passing of Brian Smyth and the defence was totally dominant against a disappointing Walterstown attack. 

On the same weekend, Dunshaughlin caused the biggest upset of the championship with a comprehensive and fully deserved victory over Dunderry in the other semi-final thus setting up a mouth-watering, and unique, final against the Skrynemen. Dunshaughlin had recovered from a first round defeat by Walterstown and had played much quality football en route to an historic first final appearance. But Skryne were warm favourites to win their third title of the decade. 

There was a tremendous buzz along the parish boundaries with most of the speculation focusing on Dunshaughlin's ability to counteract Trevor Giles and Skryne's ability to limit the contribution of the Kealy brothers. 

Eamon Giles appeared happy enough with his team's semi-final performance and made no changes for the final. Dunshaughlin manager Eamon Barry was similarly happy with his team. 

And it was the black and ambers who looked the better team in the opening half. They won ample possession all over the field and should have had a substantial lead at the interval after playing with a strong breeze. They might have done so but for the marvellous goalkeeping instincts of Philip Kinsella. With seven minutes remaining to half-time Dunshaughlin corner forward David Crimmins left two Skryne defenders stranded before unleashing a rasper...Kinsella was on top of it and the danger was averted. Many neutrals believed that this was the definitive moment of the 1999 final. 

It was all square at the break, 0-4 apiece, with the Skryne scores shared equally by Brian Smyth and Trevor Giles. 

Skryne captain Mick O'Dowd raises the Keegan Cup

The feeling at half-time was that Dunshaughlin had wasted too many chances and that Skryne might just shade the issue. But it was the outsiders who grabbed the first score of the second half through Denis Kealy; his fourth pointed free. Then, four minutes after the resumption, Skryne moved up about two gears and, in doing so, effectively won the Keegan Cup. Ciaran Murphy grabbed an equalising point after good work by Paul O Donnell who was involved again in creating the opportunity for Brian Smyth to put the Blues ahead at 0-6 to 0-5. John McDermott added another beauty as Skryne went for the jugular and Smyth was involved again before Trevor Giles hoisted a fabulous point that had a visible effect on Dunshaughlin's morale. With 20 minutes left, Smith centred and Giles fisted to the net for the score that killed off the game at 1-8 to 0-5. Minutes later, Giles returned the compliment to Smyth to send over his fourth point as the lead was stretched to seven points. In the space of eight glorious minutes Skryne had scored 1-5 without reply, turning a one point deficit into a seven point advantage. For their supporters, this was as good as football could get and the celebrations were already getting under way. James Gibbons, Trevor Giles and Mick O' Dowd completed the scoring and Skryne could afford the luxury of not scoring in the last 14 minutes and still win by seven points. The final score was 1-12 to 0-8. 

Trevor Giles was named as 'man of the match' and his contribution of 1-4 was quite remarkable...Brian Smyth was also a contender; he scored 0-4 and had a hand in several scores in a memorable performance. John McDermott also played a key role while the defence, generally viewed as the team's possible Achilles Heel, came out on top against the Dunshaughlin attack. Mick O' Dowd was an inspirational captain throughout the entire campaign...Ronan Mulvaney looks as if he's going to be a major force while Ken Pentony was rock solid in the No. 3 jersey. 

But despite the presence of some outstanding individual footballers, Skryne's victory was down to team effort. They trained on the Hill of Tara in miserable January and February conditions...they increased their fitness and stamina levels under the instruction of former Olympic athlete Sean Cahill...they had the heart to keep going despite losing their first five league games and drawing their first two championship outings...Eamon Giles and his selectors Mick Ryan, Ray Mooney and Martin Frayne held their collective nerve and made the difficult decisions...and it all ended in deserved glory. The remarkable Skryne tradition has been further enhance in 1999 by the latest wearers of the blue jersies...and at county level by that brilliant pair John McDermott and Trevor Giles. 

The winning team, and scorers in the final was; Philip Kinsella; Gordon Geraghty, Ken Pentony, Louis Pentony; Martin Mulvaney, Ronan Mulvaney, David Donnelly; Paul O Donnell, John McDermott (0-1); Brian Smyth (0-4), Mick O Dowd (0-1), Trevor Giles (1-4); Ciaran Murphy (0-1), Ken O Connell , James Gibbons (0-1). Substitutes; Sean Lynch, Gary Johnson and Alan Carty. Other member of the panel were; Fergal Power, Nick Hamill, Alan Swan, Colin Lynch. Declan Browne, Willie Donnelly and James Battersby. 

Most Read Stories