"We were going to extract some revenge on Cork"
Following the conclusion of the All-Ireland final, there was the inevitable cackling about the GAA's love of a replay. In actual fact, excluding this year, there have only been four All-Ireland football final replays in the last half century.
And while semi-final replays have been fairly commonplace in recent times, there hasn't been a replayed final in sixteen years. And there's been a few point one-point games in the intervening period (2002, 2010, 2011, 2013).
The consensus tells us that replayed finals are usually anti-climactic affairs. The first game is an occasion surrounded by all manner of hoopla. The replay is just another game, and an altogether grimmer and underwhelming experience. Is this true?
The 1996 All-Ireland football final replay was many things but it was hardly anti-climactic. Also, you could hardly say the 2013 hurling final replay wasn't an uplifting experience for the neutral.
Sticking with the football, this Saturday's match will the 13th replayed final. There have only been four in the last fifty years.
6,000 less people showed up for the 1972 replay than attended the first game. Offaly, gunning for their second title in a row, and also their second title ever, beat Kerry by a handsome nine points in the replay.
Since then there's only been three football final replays, which must count as something of a lapse from the 'Grab All Association'. Here's the three.
Two of Sean Boylan's All-Ireland victories as Meath manager came following final replays.
Not dissimilar to the Clare players after the drawn 1998 Munster Final with Waterford, Meath were convinced they'd been bullied around the place by Cork in the first game.
With Meath trailing by a point in the final seconds of the drawn final, David Beggy flung himself to the ground like a tragic heroine. A free was awarded. The Cork defenders were dismayed and let a yelp of anguish in the ref's direction. It wasn't quite Andy D'urso like but they were plainly annoyed.
Liam Hayes explained the post-drawn game mindset in an interview with Laochra Gael a few years back.
We had a team meeting the following morning. And most of the players were hungover, most of the players were beaten up. We were in a bad state. But we made up our minds that we were going to win the replay. And in addition to that, we were going to extract some revenge on Cork.
The replay gave us a vivid illustration as to why Meath were the most feared and, in some quarters, reviled team of the era. Gerry McEntee was sent off for throwing a box early on. Reminding us that Sean Cavanagh didn't invent cynicism, Mick Lyons dived and grabbed onto Teddy McCarthy's leg and held onto it for long enough to ensure the game McCarthy didn't get any advantage. Meath squeezed home by a point.
As the Mayo News court reporters informed us this year, the 1996 All-Ireland final replay is still causing fights to break out in Mayo chippers.
That year's All-Ireland series was very, very far from a classic but it remains one of the most memorable of all All-Ireland finals.
This is due to the brawl, but it's also due to the fact that it kick-started Mayo's reputation for desperate ill-luck (that's a charitable interpretation) in All-Ireland finals.
Three-quarters of the way through the first game, Ray Dempsey booted home a goal and Mayo found themselves six points ahead in a game where scores were already hard to come by. They had a firm hand on the Cup.
Mayo reacted to the Dempsey goal in much the same way the Irish international football team tend to react to scoring a goal.
The rate of scoring subsequently quickened up, at least at the Mayo end. Meath managed to draw level without even benefiting from the fillip of a goal. Colm Coyle's equaliser was obviously too perfect.
In his adjudication on the replay brawl, McEnaney adhered to the unwritten but longstanding rule that you single out one player from each side and give them the line. Apparently, this had been transmitted to the players beforehand.
When things finally simmered down, McEnaney made his mind up that he was going to send off the two totemic midfielders, Liam McHale and John McDermott. A like for like sending off, if you will.
However, before he could bring together the condemned men, one of his umpires got onto him and gave him the immortal words.
"Pat, you're going to have to send off Colm Coyle, he's after dropping about six of them."
The 2000 All-Ireland final was eagerly anticipated by those of a purist mindset. There was no long famine being ended. Both Kerry and Galway had already ended their respective famines in the late 90s. The romance came from both teams' reputation for attacking and attractive football. Pundits obsessed over the coming duel between Seamus Moynihan and Padraig Joyce, the two form players in the country.
The final games themselves (both of them) were a big letdown. On the first day, Kerry shot into an 0-8 to 0-1 lead, aided by Ray Silke's suicidally loose marking job on Mike Frank Russell, who popped over a series of points from play in the first 20 minutes. It was the last big game Silke would play for Galway, though Richie Fahy would also find life tough on Russell in the replay.
Kerry's indiscipline in defence allowed Galway clamber back into the game. Joyce was unerring from the frees. Behind all game, Galway drew level with the final whistle fast approaching. A Joyce free made it 0-14 to 0-14. In the final seconds, Galway mounted one last attack. Derek Savage grabbed the ball less than thirty yards out. Instead of popping it off to Joyce who was steaming through on his shoulder, he tried short. It fell short into Declan O'Keeffe's hands. Joyce was irate.
In his Irish Times column last week, Darragh O'Sé talked about the post-draw confusion.
"I remember playing Galway in 2000 and not even being sure what way to shake hands with them at the final whistle. It’s one thing shaking hands with a guy you won’t see again until the League. It’s easy to be friends when the war is over. But knowing I had to see them again in a fortnight just threw me for a minute."
The 2000 All-Ireland football final replay was hardly any more tepid and unmemorable than the first match. Indeed, it probably had more to recommend to it. Galway scored the only game of the final, a wonderful sweeping goal involving several players which finished with Declan Meehan blasting the ball into the corner.
After that Kerry conclusively dominated. Again it was Mike Frank and John Crowley who did much of the damage up front. The occasionally maligned Aodhan MacGearailt delivered on the big day, hitting 0-3. Liam Hassett also chipped in with a couple of scores. In the final minutes, Maurice Fitzgerald was let on for his cameo appearance. As usual, he took the opportunity to kick the most memorable point of the game.
A rather underrated All-Ireland success for Kerry and one that is rarely revisited by chroniclers and documentary makers.
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