1996 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship
|Winning team||Meath (6th win)|
|Player of the Year||Martin O'Connell (footballer)|
The 1996 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship was played from May to September 1996. Meath defeated Mayo in the final after a replay. The replay encounter is famous for the massive brawl between players of both teams after only five minutes of the challenge.
16 June 1996
|Meath||0-24 – 0-6||Carlow|
|T Giles 0-7, E Kelly 0-5, B Reilly 0-3, B Callaghan 0-3, T Dowd 0-2, G Geraghty, P Reynolds, M Reilly, D Curtis 0-1 each.||Report||A Keating 0-4, N Doyle 0-1, J Hayden 0-1|
|1st Preliminary Round||2nd Preliminary Round||Quarter-finals||Semi-finals||Final|
1996 is generally remembered, rightly or wrongly, as the year that Mayo threw it away. Connacht had not seen a champion crowned at Croke Park since Galway in 1966 and after such a barren spell it looked as though Mayo would bridge the yawning gap. Mayo favoured the short passing game whereas Meath were a more direct side. The contrast promised an intriguing game.
To say Mayo dominated the first game would be a severe understatement. Time and time again the westerners approached the Meath goal, only to be stymied by a resolute Royal back line. At the break there points between the teams. The second half continued in the same fashion and such pressure began to tell. With eighteen minutes remaining, Ray Dempsey managed to capitalise on a mistake by the Meath defence and score the only goal of the game. At this point, Mayo held a six point lead over Meath and looked like securing their first All-Ireland title in 45 years.
However, as has happened so often in the past, Meath reacted to such adversity with their indomitable spirit. The final quarter saw Mayo only manage to score one point as Meath slowly reduced the gap. At the final whistle, Mayo fans did not know whether to feel relieved or disappointed. Few will forget the unlikely last Meath point as Colm Coyle hoisted a ball towards the Mayo goal, only to see it bounce on the edge of the parallelogram before looping over the crossbar. Meath had snatched a draw at the death and the final would go to a replay.
All-Ireland Final Replay
The replay will be recalled in most minds as the day that a huge brawl broke out after only 5 minutes had gone. It lasted a little over 30 seconds but remains one of the most talked about incidents in GAA history.
A Maurice Sheridan free-kick dropped short in front of the Meath goal and within seconds, a scramble for the ball had turned into a full scale brawl between the teams. A plethora of mean blows were struck in the melee. Just three players in the opposite end of the field; the Mayo goalkeeper John Madden, his full-back Kevin Cahill and Meath full-forward Brendan O'Reilly were not involved. Everyone else had been drawn to that corner of the field between Hill 16 and the Cusack Stand where most of the action took place.
When order was restored, referee Pat McEnaney consulted with his officials was in no doubt about the correct course of action. The net result was the dismissal of Mayo's hugely influential Liam McHale and Meath's saviour the first day Colm Coyle. While the Royal would miss their classy defender there is little doubt that the loss of McHale to Mayo was a bigger body blow, who was man of the match in the drawn game.
As play resumed, there were over sixty minutes left to play in which the Connacht champions led for much of it. Mayo re-organised their formation and gained the upper hand when substitute PJ Loftus struck the first goal of the game near the end of the first-half. However, within a minute of the goal that had put Mayo seven points clear, Meath were given a lifeline. Pat McEnaney awarded Meath a penalty and Trevor Giles kept his cool to strike past John Madden. The goal cut Mayo's interval lead to four points, 1-06 to 1-02.
Mayo dug deep to sustain their lead in the second half but Meath managed to take the lead against the run of play late on. The turning point came when Pat Holmes fouled Graham Geraghty, and the Meath wing forward slipped a quick free into Dowd, who slid the ball to the net. The goal put Meath one point clear and with five minutes left to go, it was still neck and neck. Brendan O'Reilly scored a point that sealed victory at the very death for the Royal county, despite a last-gasp Mayo onslaught. A young Jason Gill was left heartbroken after the match and vowed never to play football again for his beloved Kiltimagh. Gill went on to have a successful handball career touring America.
Gold and Green Shirts/Green Shorts/Green Socks
|2-09 - 1-11
(final score after 70 minutes)
Green and Red shirts/White shorts/Red socks
|Manager: Sean Boylan
|Manager: John Maughan