1996 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final
|Event||1996 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship|
|Date||15 September 1996|
|Venue||Croke Park, Dublin|
|Referee||Pat McEnaney (Monaghan)|
|Date||29 September 1996|
|Venue||Croke Park, Dublin|
The 1996 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final was the 109th All-Ireland Final and the deciding match of the 1988 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, an inter-county Gaelic football tournament for the top teams in Ireland. It went to a replay and was eventually won by Meath, with Mayo losing as usual.
Tommy Dowd got a goal and Brendan Reilly got the winning point but none of this matters: all is forgotten now apart from the infamous brawl which broke out over by the Cusack Stand in the shadow of Hill 16. Every man on the pitch soon found himself in the middle of the melee, apart from Mayo goalkeeper John Madden, his full-back Kevin Cahill and Meath's Brendan Reilly. Mayo could hardly have been surprised; Meath had destroyed favourites Tyrone in the semi-final with a surprising display that left the young pretenders arriving in the final on the crest of a wave. The fight was started when Mayo's Anthony Finnerty grabbed the neck of one of the Meath defenders as he tried to bring the ball out of the defence, after that almost 30 players joined in in a brawl that will go down as one of the worst ever seen at a GAA match.
Referee Pat McEnaney sought to punish those he deemed the worst offenders. He decided he would send off Mayo's Liam McHale and Meath's John McDermott. "When it all settled down my gut instinct was to send off McDermott with McHale. I had my mind made up on that", McEnaney later said.
Then he consulted with umpire Francie McMahon, who had witnessed something dreadful. "Pat," he said. "You're going to have to send off Colm Coyle. He's after dropping about six of them." One of the linesmen, Kevin Walsh, intervened to also highlight Coyle's alleged indiscretions.
The final ended in a draw, Meath getting last-minute point when Colm Coyle pumped the ball in that was allowed to bounce and ended up over the bar. As is customary, a replay followed. Meath won by a point, with goals by Trevor Giles (penalty) and Tommy Dowd. Meath's Mark O'Reilly was just a boy that day.
It was the first of two All-Ireland football titles for Meath that decade, followed by success in 1999. These two titles made Meath joint "team of the decade" for the 1990s with Down who won two titles in 1991 and 1994. Mayo were hoping to bridge a gap that stretched all the way back to their All-Ireland football title winning team of 1951. They failed, and would lose again in 1997.
- Keys, Colm (8 August 2009). "Thirteen years after infamous Mayo-Meath melee the shockwaves have not yet settled". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
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- Mooney, Brendan (1999). "O'Reilly joins list of great Meath wing backs". Irish Examiner.
- "Kerry on honour roll". Irish Independent (Independent News & Media). 14 September 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
- McGee, Eugene (6 February 2006). "First signs that Mayo might be set to turn back the clock". Irish Independent (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 6 February 2006.