Action from the 1991 / 1992 Div 1 title play-off between eventual champions Newtown Utd and OMP Utd. This is from the first of three games that were required to find a winner.

Time of growth and a place to call home

In the second of a five part series, Meath Chronicle sports editor Conall Collier looks at the 40-year journey that began around May 1980 in Kilmessan and produced what is now the well-regarded North East Football League.

Each part will look at a decade of the that journey with an interview in part five with Kilmessan man Gerry Gorman who was a driving force of the development since it started.


Thornes Lounge in Kilmessan was the venue for the weekly committee meetings and for the purpose of checking the weekly forecast cards each Saturday night as part of fundraising for the development of facilities at the sports complex outside Navan that is now known as the MDL.

The closing years of the first decade saw the committee encounter problems obtaining planning permission for the 22-acre property that was purchased in 1988.

However, all that changed at the start of the 11th season (1990/1991) with the green light from a successful appeal to An Board Pleanala.

That 11th season also saw the number of teams affiliated peak at a hew high of 93, an impressive tally when compared to the eight teams that took tentative first steps under the banner of the Mid-Meath League in 1980.

Applications had been received from nine teams, but one from Oldcastle in north Meath was rejected as the 'committee' deemed that it was too far away?

The eight teams that were accepted for that first season were - Kilmessan; KIlmessan B; Skryne; Dunshaughlin; Turmec (Athboy area); Cosmos (Navan); Moynalvey and Robinstown.

Meath dominance faded during the 1990s with Louth teams winning the top grade in nine of the 10 seasons with Dromin completing a three in-a-row while Ardee side Square also won three titles.

It was a similar story in the Challenge Cup as the silverware made the journey into the Wee County after seven of the 10 finals.


SEASON 11 - 1990 /'91 (Meath & District League)

Positives and negatives highlighted the build up to the start of the 11th season with 93 teams affiliating and graded across eight divisions.

The numbers willing to serve on the MDL Committee was only seven, a decrease of three from the previous season and the lowest number since the MDL took over from the Mid-Meath League.

One very positive report was that An Bord Pleanala overturned a decision by Meath Co Council to refuse planning permission for the development of the 22-acre sports complex outside Navan. In his annual report MDL secretary Gerry Gorman specifically thanked the members of Kells UDC for support as well as Jack Gordon of Kentstown Rovers, Frank McCullough of Dromin Utd and Declan Forde of College Green FC.

On the under-age front, the North Eastern Counties Schoolboys' League was launched to take over from the MDL Schoolboys.

The MDL u-18 team hosted English club QPR in a friendly at Ratoath and the MDL also competed in the SFAI Kennedy Cup for the first time with Graham Clarke (Ratoath Harps) scoring the first goal in the competition in a 3-1 win against Limerick.

On the pitch at adult level, Patrick Kilcoyne captained Square Utd to the Div 1 title while former League of Ireland star Ray McGuigan was at the helm as Drumcar Celtic won the Challenge Cup at the expense of Kentstown Rovers.


Div 1 (champions) - Square Utd; (runner-up) - Albion Rovers.

Challenge Cup - Drumcar Celtic (Kentstown Rovers).

Chairman - Donal Gaynor; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 12 - 1991/'92 (Meath & District League)

Nine divisions were required for the 12th season as 103 teams affiliated. Guidelines for participation included compulsory dressing rooms for any club playing in the top two grades.

Fundraising was well supported and the loan that had been obtained five years earlier for the purchase of the 22-acre site outside Navan was cleared.

That paved the way for overdue development through grants and funds raised by the MDL with a number of innovative measures including an ambitious car draw that would be inaugurated for the 1992 / 1993 season.

The race for the Div 1 title was one of the most exciting for many years with Meath sides Newtown Utd and OMP Utd requiring a three-game series of play-offs before the trophy was eventually handed over to Newtown Utd captain Noel Duff following a 2-1 victory in Ratoath.

Jimmy Duff and Paul Carolan scored for Newtown with Brian Duignan on target for OMP Utd.

Square Utd won the Challenge Cup at the expense of Kells Celtic.

The final of the Gerry Bradley Memorial Shield produced a thriller at Tully Park, Trim as Trim Town and Robinstown set a MDL penalty shoot-out record with 34 spot kicks required. Trim Town won by 15-14 with goalkeeper Paul Mulligan making a crucial save from Mark Cahill.


Div 1 - Newtown Utd (OMP Utd).

Challenge Cup- Square Utd (Kells Celtic).

Chairman - Donal Gaynor; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 13 - 1992/'93 (Meath & District League)

Another increase in the number of teams to 116 and they were catered for across 10 divisions, but it was off the field where significant progress was made.

The FAI provided a £25,000 (€30,000 approx) grant for the development of facilities at the property in Navan and a further £15,000 was generated through the innovative car draw.

For an outlay of £10 a patron was entered into a three-monthly car draw with a cash alternative also available. A good deal was secured for an Opel Corsa each month from Navan-based Riverside Motors.

Gerry Gorman secured a seat on the FAI Senior Council and FAI president Michael Hyland duly attended the launch of the aforementioned car draw.

The first phase of the development was completed by the firm operated by former Meath GAA star Paraic Lyons who was awarded the contract.

Square Utd won the Div 1 title for the second time in three season while Drumcar Celtic got the better of the Ardee men in the Challenge Cup final.


Div 1 - Square Utd (Clonee Utd).

Challenge Cup - Drumcar Celtic (Square Utd).

Chairman - Donal Gaynor; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 14 - 1993/'94 (Meath & District League)

A reduction in the number of teams was a significant development and focused the nine-man MDL Committee to look at structures.

Nevertheless, a total of 107 teams affiliated and competed across 10 grades with the honours split equally between Meath and Lough clubs.

Notably, Dromin Utd took the Div 1 title for the first time when they edged out Kells Celtic while at the other end of the scale, KIlmessan 2nds won the Div 5 South title.

Dromin Utd also won the Challenge Cup when they also got the better of Kells Celtic in the decider and completed a great season for the Dermot Gaffney-managed Louth side.

Two MDL officials, Gerry Gorman and Conall Collier, were members of the FAI North East Area committee for the 12th UEFA u-16 Championships that were played in Ireland for the first time.

MDL players Declan Mahon (Clonee Utd) and Eamonn O'Brien (Slane Wanderers) were on a North East selection for a game against Drogheda Utd at United Park to mark the new floodlights at the venue that were turned on officially on 23rd September 1993.

A proposal from the MDL for area status for FAI Junior Cup Louth / Meath was also successful with Clones Town (Monaghan) defeating Dromin Utd 1-0 in the inaugural decider.

There was also a further boost for development plans with another grant from the FAI for £30,000 (€37,000 approx).


Div 1 - Dromin Utd (Kells Celtic).

Challenge Cup - Dromin Utd (Kells Celtic).

Chairman - Donal Gaynor; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 15 - 1994/'95 (Meath & District League)

Trim Celtic and Bellurgan Utd (Louth) both made the move to the MDL as 109 affiliated with a new structure in place for second teams with the introduction of three Reserve Leagues to augment six first team Leagues.

Dromin Utd retained the Div 1 title under manager Dermot Gaffney while Stackallen Rovers won the Challenge Cup when they defeated Square Utd.

Slane Wanderers won the FAI Junior Cup Louth / Meath Area final.

The Tailteann Cup pre-season competition was introduced to facilitate the MDL representative team preparations.

Leinster Senior League side Parkvilla and League of Ireland side Longford Town made it a three-team tournament for the Kerr Reilly Tailteann Cup.


Div 1 - Dromin Utd (Newtown Utd).

Challenge Cup - Stackallen Rovers (Square Utd).

Chairman - Donal Gaynor; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 16 - 1995/'96 (Meath & District League)

Another development this season was the introduction of the Premier Division for the first time and the end of Div 1A. Dromin Utd made it three in-a-row as the inaugural Premier champions and they also won the Challenge Cup again.

Dromin also represented the MDL in the Leinster Senior Cup losing out narrowly to League of Ireland side Athlone Town at St Mel's Park.

Another notable feat was a fine hat-trick for Kells Celtic winning the Reserve Cup for the third year in-a-row,

Funding for development came in at £30,000 from the FAI and £15,000 from the National Lottery.


Premier - Dromin Utd (Newtown Utd)

Challenge Cup - Dromin Utd (Kentstown Rovers).

Chairman - Donal Gaynor; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 17 - 1996/'97 (Meath & District League)

Donal Gaynor stepped down as chairman after 11 seasons and he was replaced by Eugene Lynch.

Some 107 teams affiliated with Monaghan club Carrick Rovers (Carrickmacross) joining for the first time.

Bellurgan Utd swept the boards winning the Premier League, Challenge Cup, Kilmessan Shield and the

Louth / Meath area final of the FAI Junior Cup.


Premier - Bellurgan Utd (OMP Utd).

Challenge Cup - Bellurgan Utd (Newtown Utd).

Chairman - Donal Gaynor; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 18 - 1997/'98 (Meath & District League)

A notable achievement this season was the staging of the first Challenge Cup final at the MDL and it was appropriate that the decider would produce an all-Meath pairing with TnaG (now TG4) featuring the action as Kentstown Rovers took the silverware at the expense of OMP Utd.

Carrick Rovers won the Premier title taking the silverware to Monaghan for the first time with Newtown Utd taking the runner-up position for the third time in four seasons.


Premier - Carrick Rovers (Newtown Utd).

Challenge Cup - Kentstown Rovers (OMP Utd).

Chairman - Eugene Lynch; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Mick Wall.

SEASON 19 - 1998/'99 (Meath & District League)

The MDL, along with the Carlow League, Kildare League, Wexford League, Wicklow League and the Amateur League (Dublin) formed a lobby group over issues in relation to the influence of a number of Dublin Leagues controlling the Leinster Football Association. It took time for more equitable representation, but it was achieved by the end of the 1999 / 2000 season.

The MDL secured a three-year sponsorship with Drogheda-based Stafford Oil and announced plans for the development of floodlit all-weather pitches.

The talk also spread to the possible re-location to the MDL of the Navan greyhound track which had been sold for what was supposed to be a rail link terminal to Dublin!

The FAI announced an ambitious plan for The Arena - Eircom Park.

Some 102 teams affiliated with Bellurgan Utd winning the Premier title and Dunderry causing a shock in the Challenge Cup when they defeated Rock Celtic with Paddy Darcy scoring the winner. Dunderry was the first team from the fourth grade to win the trophy.


Premier - Bellurgan Utd (Carrick Rovers).

Challenge Cup - Dunderry (Rock Celtic).

Chairman - Eugene Lynch; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Tom Flynn.

SEASON 20 - 1999/2000 (Meath & District League)

The number of teams was 102 as Rock Celtic bounced back in the Challenge Cup beating Slane Wanderers in the final while Square Utd pipped Bellurgan Utd to the Premier title.

There was also an O'Neill Shield final win for Summerhill Celtic when they made it two in-a-row after beating Duleek 3rds the previous season and retaining the trophy against Botown 2nds. Plans were under discussion to mark the 21st anniversary of the Mid-Meath / Meath & District League in 2001.


Premier - Square Utd (Bellurgan Utd).

Challenge Cup - Rock Celtic (Slane Wanderers).

Chairman - Eugene Lynch; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar - Tom Flynn.


THE THIRD DECADE - SEASONS 21 - 30 (1990/'91 - 1999/2000)

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