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Watch: Pat McEnaney Explains Chaos Of Refereeing Infamous Mayo Meath Brawl Of '96

Watch: Pat McEnaney Explains Chaos Of Refereeing Infamous Mayo Meath Brawl Of '96
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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The brawl at the outset of Mayo and Meath's 1996 All Ireland final is among the most infamous moments in Irish sporting history.

In the opening moments of the game, a mass bust up ensued after a scrap for the ball inside the Meath square. Bodies upon bodies poured in to throw punches, digs, and kicks, and Monaghan man Pat McEnaney was the man charged with calming it down.

Refereeing his first ever All-Ireland final, McEnaney was at the centre of the chaos, nearly being dragged into the brawl inadvertently at one stage.

In brilliant archive footage shared to Twitter this week, McEnaney explains his decision to send off one man each from Meath and Mayo - and how he came to that decision, with the hilarious assistance of his assistant and linesman.

Mayo v Meath 1996:

The Mayo v Meath All-Ireland final is remembered predominantly not for its footballing quality, but for the mother of all brawls which took place early in the game.

Pat McEnaney explained years later how he attempted to deal with the unbridled mess around the Meath goal, and what he was told by his assistants.

The explanation comes in a clip taken from a documentary following McEnaney during the 2000 championship. The clip was shared to Twitter by the brilliant KillianM2 this week.


Speaking on the brawl, McEnaney revealed he was swayed to send off a different man after speaking to his linesmen and umpires, and that he

This match was only 10-11 minutes old when the flare up happened. All hell broke loose.

I think there were about 22 or 23 players who convened onto each other. There was nobody sparing themselves.

To me, Liam McHale and John McDermott were the two men I wanted to go. My linesman, Kevin Walsh from Clare, said 'Colm Coyle has to go, Pat - he's after dropping about five fellas.' Francis McMahon, my umpire, said, 'Pat, Colm Coyle has to go.'

I said, right, Liam McHale and Colm Coyle - and nobody said anything!

To say both men were unlucky to be sent off, I have to accept that. To me, there were 20 other players very lucky to stay on the field.

McEnaney's final comment is the most true of all - in reality, the brawl was insigated and escalated by far more than only two players from both Meath and Mayo, and McHale and Coyle could count themselves unfortunate to have taken the brunt of the blame.

Nonetheless, the scenes in front of Hill 16 were shameful, with flying kicks and punches aplenty thrown.

The reaction to the incident understandably took its toll on McEnaney, with fierce scrutiny on how the Monaghan native had handled an unprecedented All-Ireland final incident.


In the documentary snippet, he comments on the months after the final, saying that the death of his father in late 1996 made the fallout even tougher to process.

It did affect me big time around that particular time.

Me aul boy died a couple of months after that, he died in November. There were five lads in our house and we all played football.

I'd have to say that, only for him, we would have never been involved in football, we went together to matches everybody, up to Croke Park.

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was on commentary duty for RTÉ on 1996 All-Ireland final day, and the same clip shows him discussing his reaction to the brawl:

He [McEnaney] was powerless, and I would have sympathy for him.

Of course, this again was the minds of the players working. Maybe Mayo had it in the back of their minds, 'oh people say all over the country that Mayo are soft, that you can push them around, let's show that that won't happen' - and then the reaction from Meath, 'well nobody pushes us around! We're not going to be pushed around!"

In most cases for things like that, they look worse than they really are.

The Mayo v Meath incident, for better or for worse, is one of the most iconic moments in recent All-Ireland final history, and it is fascinating to get the perspective of the man in the middle on that infamous day.

SEE ALSO: In Pictures: Huge Weekend In Ladies Club Football As All-Ireland Finalists Decided

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