I HAVE BEEN going to games now for longer than I care to remember but I cannot for the life of me recall ‘preparation’ for any game like we did for this one, writes Tommy Callaghan.
Maybe it was the fact we were heading to Drogheda and all the bad memories that brings with it, but as we were exiting out of Naas, one member of our travelling party suggested that due to the day that was in it (mammy’s day) and as all four present were unfortunately without a mammy, we remember them with a decade of the rosary!
For once, lost for words.
I cod you not emphasised our ‘Padre’ ... and off he went with the opening prayer.
Is this the ‘Glorious mysteries’ or the ‘Sorrowful mysteries’ I thought to myself as the rest of us in the car, sheepishly I hasten to add, joined in.
Won’t give you the name of the said ‘Padre’ because if I did it mightn’t be believed. Suffice to say he has had more clubs than most ... and we’ll leave it at that.
The main topic of coversation once the ‘decade’ was complete was Drogheda 1991.
It still pains. It’s still vivid in the mind. It was the opening round of Leinster that season, Micko’s first game in the championship with The Lilies. And having, unluckily lost out to Dublin in the National Football League final just a matter of weeks previously, Kildare were red hot favourites to advance.
On a scale of one to ten on the ‘disappointment ladder’ of Kildare footballers’ voyages down the years (and there have been many) that result would be up there very close to the top rung.
Hard to imagine it was all of 21 years ago come this summer.
Oh my God what a disappointment.
Hardly a word spoken on the way home that evening until dry throats were ‘treated’ when we reached ‘The Poitin.’
The expectations had been so high. I can recall it like it was only last week.
A beautiful sunny day in a packed country venue it was what the GAA was all about in that era.
Kildare had a team over-flowing with some of the best players ever to don the white jersey.
Unfortunately John Crofton was missing due to injury that day but with the likes of Dalton, Dowling, McGovern, Lynch, Kerrigan, McLoughlin, McDonald, a young lad by the name of Glenn Ryan, to name just a few, the scene was set.
It seemed Kildare while not coasting were in control but at the same time could not put Louth away.
Not unlike last Sunday’s encounter.
But on that day in 1991 Kildare paid for their shortcomings and paid dearly as a Stefan White goal late in the second half had them on the back foot.
Micko looked to his bench and Jarlath Gilroy (not fit to start due to injury) came on for Johnny Mac.
The first ball in saw the Ballymore man gather, take one step and blast to the net.
Kildare were back in business.
Or were they?
Louth responded as one of the O’Hanlon boys set up White, again.
The danger man stayed cool, got the ball to his favourite left boot.
One of the biggest upsets in the Leinster Championship of that era.
What a disappointment.
And so all of 21 years later Kildare finally make a return to Drogheda on Sunday last.
The teams of course have met on numerous occasions since, Newbridge, Navan, Croke Park.
Louth and Kildare played in St. Conleth’s in the first ever live televised Leinster Championship game when the late great Dermot Earley was manager, and Louth duly repeated the 1991 medicine.
And did so on more than one occasion since, the latest just back in 2010.
But now at last we’re back to where it all began.
Back to where the Micko champion-ship voyage came off the rails before it even got under way.
And a connection between that day and 2012?
Playing at corner back for Louth was one Peter Fitzpatrick.
Yes, you guessed it.
The same Peter Fitzpatrick, now a TD, who in his spare time (or should that be the other way round) managers the Louth senior team.
Incredibly, walking into Sunday’s game the place looked so remarkably unchanged. Grass banks (thought the health and safety had done away with them) looking green as ever with the sun blazing down.
For a split second, a flashback and I could see Stefan White take that pass and bury it past Niall Connolly at the town end.
No! Banish such thoughts I say to myself. There is no player (apart from Peter Fitz) who played that day still involved today.
No baggage. Except in the mind.
And so we got under way.
The Lilies opened in style. They looked hungry. They looked in control. And in the early minutes looked in a different class. Totally dominant they quickly built up a five point lead.
This was looking good and only ten minutes gone.
Louth however gradually worked their way into the game. They hit the upright twice with Derek Maguire causing all sorts of bother to the Kildare full back line.
By half time, despite dominating for long periods, the visitors were only one to the good.
1991 for some reason kept popping up in the back of the mind.
Louth levelled up within a minute.
But Kildare suddenly came to life, Eoghan, Mikey and the Ballymore man hit points before a lovely weighted ball from the Allenwood captain sent James Kavanagh through. Bang. Goal.
The throbbing feeling at the front of the forehead suddenly went walkabouts. On they went as Tomas O’Connor brought out the best in the Louth net minder before Eamonn Callaghan extended the lead to eight points and Mikey soon added another.
Daryl Flynn showed all his shrewdness and awareness when halting a dangerous Louth attack, before the home side added two.
Fourteen to go and Morgan O’Flaherty came forward like a train, a blistering shot was saved but the no. 6 managed to force the rebound over the line.
Done and dusted I said to myself and while it won’t change anything from ’91 it could certainly do lots for 2012.
Incredibly that was Kildare’s last score of the game as they failed to raise a flag for the remaining 18 minutes .
Gradually Louth began to cut back the deficit beginning with a Paddy Keenan long range point followed by five frees on the trot from Darren Clarke (no not the golfer but a man who has given great service to Louth down the years).
When it was down to four, them bloody flashbacks began to reactivate once again. The throbbing in the forehead also returned.
No. Not possible. Surely not.
But this time, thankfully, there was no Stefan White and Kildare not only took home the points but also climbed second in the table with promotion prospects now in their own hands.
The Lilies never make it easy!
In a game that should have been won by at least eight to ten points in the end we had to settle for four.
Despite all that, despite Kildare somehow managing to take the foot off the pedal twice (at least) in the one game, the result we came for we got.
Leaving aside the lapses in concentration Kildare played some tremendous football at times; scored some impressive points and the goal drought has surely now fully evaporated.
At the end of the day, maybe that ‘gesture’ by one of our car crew did us no harm.
If we can keep our four mammies giving us a dig-out from ‘up above’ who knows what can happen.
Now for Westmeath and Galway.
Two wins and we return to whence we came back in 2008.
I shudder to think what ‘gesture’ our ‘Padre’ will come up for this Sunday and again on Sunday fortnight.
In the meantime something to ponder.
Could the ‘Glorious mysteries’ be Kildare’s missing link?
Don’t knock it before you try it!