Remember the epic saga between Meath and Kildare in 1997?

Colm Coyle and Anthony Rainbow share their first hand memories of a three match saga in Leinster

BY Raf Diallo 21:55 Wednesday 14 June 2017, 21:55 14 Jun 2017

Mick O'Dwyer and Sean Boylan shake hands at the end of the game © James Meehan/INPHO

Given how dominant Dublin have been in the Leinster Football Championship since the turn of the Millennium, the winner of this Saturday's provincial semi final between Meath and Kildare knows that a difficult final will await.

The Dubs take on either Offaly or Westmeath in their own semi next week and are heavy favourites to add another Leinster title to the 12 they have won since 2002.

Since 2005, only Meath has broken the sequence of Dublin provincial titles, doing so in 2010.

It's a far cry from the more evenly balanced 1990s when Kildare and Meath were both dining at the top table.

Take 1997 for instance when the reigning All Ireland champions Meath had eliminated Dublin in the Leinster quarter finals and then set up a semi final against Kildare that would become a saga as it took an original fixture and two replays (the first of which even went to extra time to no avail) to separate the sides. Meath won the third match by just two points to reach the final where they would go on to lose to Offaly.

Colm Coyle and Anthony Rainbow were involved for Meath and Kildare respectively and the two joined Off The Ball to reminisce about the long drawn out encounter between their counties in the summer of '97.

 

Graham Geraghty of Meath is tackled by Anthony Rainbow of Kildare © James Meehan/INPHO

"The three games were epic and the second one - the middle one - it had everything really," said Coyle.

"It had good open football, hard hitting, a few sending offs, missed penalties and great scores. And great players on both teams. At that time, Meath and Kildare were probably two of the top three teams in the country, so the quality was very high."

Rainbow, meanwhile, remembered it as then Kildare manager Mick O'Dwyer's first season back after a couple of years away and he cited the increased fitness and new panel members which would have a longer term boost.

"1997 was the foundation of our success for '98," said Rainbow, referencing the 1998 season which would see the Lilywhites take Leinster honours by beating Meath in the final and reach the All Ireland final against Galway.

"When you talk about memories of the second game [against Meath in '97], that probably stands out to everybody really, that penalty save, Davy kicking the ball over the bar and coming in and getting the goal.

"But probably my abiding memory of that would be Willie McCreery, who went off with shock more than cramp, because he was only after scoring a goal and the joke going around was that he actually went off with shock because Willie never scores a goal. But he actually went off with cramp and Dermot Earley came on and that really kickstarted Dermot's career as well." 

You can listen to the full interview on the podcast player or stream on iTunes:

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