Surviving emergencies and building a lasting legacy

Surviving emergencies and building a lasting legacy

In the thurd 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.

THE THIRD DECADE: 2000 - 2010

One highlight from the early part of the third decade was the 21st anniversary (1980 – 2001) banquet at the Headfort Arms Hotel, Kells on Friday 23rd November 2001.

At that event, attended by FAI chief executive Brendan Menton, the MDL also launched a commemorative publication that covered all aspects of the first 21 years (1980 - 2001) - Not Just Another Brick In The Wall.

Eight teams took tentative first steps under the banner of the Mid-Meath League on 23rd November 1980. The eight teams for that first season were - Kilmessan; Kilmessan B; Skryne; Dunshaughlin; Turmec (Athboy area); Cosmos (Navan); Moynalvey and Robinstown.

An excerpt from the introduction to Not Just Another Brick In The Wall reads:

The Meath & District League was fortunate to bring together a group of individuals who shared the same vision and were prepared to work voluntarily to achieve that goal. Sometimes it was difficult, sometimes it was easy, but at all times it was memorable and rewarding and the legacy for future sports enthusiasts is richer as a result of those endeavours.

SEASON 21: 2000 / 2001 (Meath & District League)

The Foot & Mouth epidemic was the main concern during the latter part of the 21st season as the farming community was severely impacted, particularly in the Louth area. The problems were resolved after a complete close-down of all sports fixtures over a two-month period.

This resulted in a reduced competition format with the Leagues and the Challenge Cup completed while the other competitions were shelved.

It also marked the conclusion of the three-year sponsorship deal with Stafford Oil and the opening of the six all-weather floodlit pitches at the MDL sports complex.

Some 99 teams affiliated and competed across nine divisions.

Bellurgan Utd won the Premier title ahead of Louth rivals Rock Celtic while Trim Celtic won the Challenge Cup with a 2-1 victory against Albion Rovers as the decider returned to United Park, Drogheda due to development work at the MDL in Navan.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Bellurgan Utd (champions); Rock Celtic (runner-up).

Challenge Cup - Trim Celtic (Albion Rovers).

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

SEASON 22: 2001 / 2002 (Meath & District League)

The AGM was held outside Meath for the first time at Hotel Bailie in Bailieboro. The main item for consideration was the second attempt to change the playing season, but the Duleek FC proposal while achieving a narrow overall majority in favour fell short of the required two thirds majority.

Some 90 teams affiliated and Bellurgan Utd successfully defended the Premier title and a great run in the FAI Junior Cup from a starting entry of 360 teams saw them exit (0-1) away to Ballymun in the quarter-final.

They narrowly missed out on a notable double when losing (0-1) to local rivals Rock Celtic in the Challenge Cup final.

Cloghertown Utd exited in the semi-final of the Leinster Junior Shield against top Dublin side St Kevin Boys, the tie was played outside Dublin for the first time at the MDL in Navan.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Bellurgan Utd (Rock Celtic)

Challenge Cup - Rock Celtic (Bellurgan Utd).

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

SEASON 23: 2002 / 2003 (Meath & District League)

A small drop to 88 teams and Bellurgan continued their dominance securing a hat-trick of League titles and a fifth success in seven seasons.

They also got revenge for the previous season’s defeat by Rock Celtic in the Challenge Cup final when defeating them 2-0 to secure the double.

Bellurgan made it to the quarter-final of the FAI Junior Cup again and on this occasion lost a penalty shoot-out away to top Munster side Peake Villa from Thurles.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Bellurgan Utd (Trim Celtic).

Challenge Cup - Bellurgan Utd (Rock Celtic).

Chairman - Eugene Lynch; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar – John O’Byrne

SEASON 24: 2003 / 2004 (Meath & District League)

This season will always be sadly remembered for a tragic accident that took place at Navan Town’s home ground on Sunday 14th September 2003 in which a 10-year-old from Dundalk, Lee Myles-Luchessi lost his life.

Once again 88 teams affiliated and Rock Celtic became the first club in the League to install floodlights.

Bellurgan transfrerred to the Dublin-based Athletic Union League and made an immediate impact gaining promotion to the top flight at the first attempt.

Another Louth side, Monasterboice-based Albion Rovers won the double narrowly finishing ahead of Dundalk based Glenmuir in the Premier League and defeating Dunderry who amazingly defied the odds for a second time in reaching the Challenge Cup final after winning the trophy for the first time in 1999.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Albion Rovers (Glemuir Utd).

Challenge Cup - Albion Rovers (Dunderry).

Chairman - Eugene Lynch secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar – John O’Byrne.

SEASON 25: 2004 /2005 (Meath & District League)

The number of teams increased to 94 teams. The battle at the top of the Premier League saw two Meath sides Slane Wanderers and Trim Celtic go right to the wire and Slane prevailed to become the first side from the Royal County to take the honours since Newtown Utd 13 years earlier in 1992 when they required three play-off games to get the better of Navan side OMP Utd.

Albion Rovers became the first side to successfully defend the Challenge Cup since Moynalvey almost in 1986 when they denied Slane a double in a very exciting final.

The MDL completed the development of a top class grass pitch and received planning permission for further development.

Carrick Rovers became the first MDL side to win a provincial competition when their second team took the honours in the Leinster Junior Shield.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Slane Wanderers (Trim Celtic).

Challenge Cup - Albion Rovers (Slane Wanderers).

Chairman - Eugene Lynch; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar – John O’Byrne.

SEASON 26: 2005 / 2006 (Meath & District League)

The sad passing of former founding member and League official John Holden and also of George Briggs former Leinster Football Association secretary marked this season.

Some 63 clubs affiliated and the number of teams reached 100 with the ratio of teams from outside Meath in a slight majority.

Outgoing Chairman Eugene Lynch who was at the helm since 1997 declared he was not going in the position of chairman. Glowing tributes were paid to him by a number of delegates. He switched to a less demanding committee role thus keeping up a remarkable unbroken sequence of involvement since 1982. He was replaced as Chairman by another long-term stalwart John Gorman from Kilmessan.

Albion Rovers regained the Premier title while Duleek were victorious in an all-Meath Challenge Cup final at the expense .

Another phase of development at the MDL sports complex was completed to comprise the extras of a community hall, meeting rooms, two more dressing rooms and storage rooms.

Woodview Celtic followed in the footsteps of Carrick Rovers success the previous season by winning the Leinster Junior Shield.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Albion Rovers (Slane Wanderers).

Challenge Cup - Duleek (Slane Wanderers).

Chairman - John Gorman secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar – John O’Byrne.

SEASON 27: 2006 / 2007 (Meath & District League)

Some 63 clubs fielding 101 teams affiliated and Trim Celtic became the second Meath team in three seasons to win the Premier League in a tight finish involving Square Utd,

There was plenty of controversy as the League title hinged on a successful protest to the MDL lodged by Square Utd following allegations of Trim using a suspended player in their end of season clash.

However, Trim Celtic successfully appealed the MDL decision to the Leinster Football Association.

Navan Town became the first Navan side to win the Challenge Cup in 25 years following a penalty shoot out against Rock Celtic at Claremont Stadium for the first time.

Albion Rovers became the second MDL side to install floodlights, and were closely followed by Parkvilla and at the MDL grounds, although in the MDL case it was the first phase of plans for a full sized Astro Pitch with the lights being sited on a then undeveloped pitch. A second full sized grass pitch was also fully upgraded.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Trim Celtic (Square Utd).

Challenge Cup - Navan Town (Rock Celtic).

Chairman - John Gorman secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; Fixtures Secretary - Pat O’ Brien registrar – John O’Byrne.

SEASON 28: 2007 / 2008 (Meath & District League)

Another season where 63 clubs affiliated fielding a record high of 104 teams.

There was another campaign for a change of season from the traditional August / April season to a calendar year season that would run from March to October annually.

It was narrowly defeated. Notable in the voting was the members of the Executive Committee did not vote and left the matter solely to the club delegates.

For the first time in the League’s history all member clubs were represented at the AGM and the motion for change failed by two votes to get a necessary two-thirds majority.

On the pitch, Glenmuir Utd from Dundalk brought the Premier League title back to Louth and Rock Celtic bounced back from the previous season’s final defeat to take the Challenge Cup at the expense of 2006 champions Duleek.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier - Glenmuir Utd (Rock Celtic).

Challenge Cup - Rock Celtic (Duleek).

Chairman - John Gorman; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar – John O’Byrne.

SEASON 29: 2008 / 2009 (Meath & District League)

Similar numbers to the previous season affiliated fielding 103 teams. Kingscourt Harps became the first club to install a floodlit astro-pitch.

The destination of the Premier League went to the last kick of the season when Rock Celtic needing a draw against fellow title contenders Woodview Celtic managed a 2-2 result.

Woodview scored with what looked to be a winning goal, only to see it cancelled as a result of a linesman’s flag.

Glenmuir made it a double swoop for Dundalk teams when they managed to hold on to their playing pool from the previous League winning campaign, and they beat Trim Celtic in the Challenge Cup decider.

With more clubs availing of facilities with floodlights more matches were scheduled for Thursday and Friday evenings.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier – Rock Celtic (Woodview Celtic).

Challenge Cup - Glenmuir Utd (Trim Celtic).

Chairman - John Gorman; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar – John O’Byrne.

SEASON 30: 2009 / 2010 (Meath & District League)

Despite the growing recession a record 105 teams affiliated

Secretary Gerry Gorman commented in his annual report.

“Unfortunately our game has not escaped the effects of the dramatic and rapid downturn in the economy over the last 12 months.”

“The most notable aspect being the stalling of development plans as a result of the uncertainty of capital grants from the Department of Arts, Sport, and Tourism.

“It is hoped that it will be a relatively short period that hopefully will be measured in months, rather than years that the vital aid will be back on stream.

“Otherwise, not only will the future plans be shattered, but also a lot of good work and planning could end up being a waste of time, money and effort if the development to date is not allowed to reach its potential.”

Kingscourt Harps was crowned FAI club-of-the-year.

Belluragn returned to the MDL with their first team after a number of seasons in the Dublin-based AUL.

Rock Celtic defended their Premier League title following a play off win over Carrick Rovers while Clones Town won the Challenge Cup at the expense of relatively new team from Trim, Knightsbrook.

The end of season awards night saw a boost for the MDL when FAI chief executive officer John Delaney handed over a grant cheque for €30,000.

MAIN STATISTICS

Premier – Rock Celtic (Carrick Rovers).

Challenge Cup - Clones Town (Knightsbrook)

Chairman - John Gorman; secretary / treasurer - Gerry Gorman; registrar – John O’Byrne.

PART FOUR TO FOLLOW :

THE FOURTH DECADE - SEASONS 31 - 40 (2000 / 2001 - 2019)

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