Meath manager Sean Boylan and players celebrate after defeating Dublin in the 1996 Leinster final but such scenes of joy belong to another era.

Jimmy Geoghegan: Back in 2001 ahead of the All-Ireland final, few could have foreseen the famine ahead

Going through some old newspapers recently I came across something that hasn't been seen in this neck of the woods for quite some time.

It was a supplement that was brought out by the Meath Chronicle ahead of the All-Ireland SFC final in 2001 - the last time Meath reached such a stage in the championship.

The supplement carried the title 'You'll Never Beat the Royal.' The title, I presume, is a take on the old song we used to hear very often in grounds in Europe and beyond when the Republic of Ireland soccer team, especially under Jack Charlton, seemed to rule the world.

Even if the Boys in Green were struggling and losing you would hear, every so often, the old refrain - 'You'll Never Beat the Irish' - cascading down from the stands. Of course the evidence on the field often demonstrated the exact opposite but the song was still churned out. We knew what the ever-optimistic fans meant.

The title of the 2001 All-Ireland supplement did contain more than an little exaggeration but, at another level, it was understandable too because at that time the Royal County were famous for their comebacks, in games and in a wider context. Time and again throughout the 1980s, '90s and into the 2000s the boys in green and gold earned a reputation for never giving up. They just couldn't be put down it seemed - at least not for long.

They might bomb one year but they would be back the next, even more fired up; often they came back better, stronger and made it to the top of the mountain. In 1995 for instance they were hammered by Dublin. The next year Sean Boylan's troops won the Sam Maguire.

In that now sepia-tinted era Meath were regular members of that elite group who frequently made it to the All-Ireland SFC final - the biggest day in Irish sport. They were very much paid up members of GAA's golden circle.

In 2001 there were other reasons why Meath supporters should have wallowed in a certain sense of infallibility. They had booked their place in the All-Ireland final by defeating, no trouncing, mighty Kerry 2-14 to 0-5. One image I have from that game is, near the end of the contest, some of the Meath players enjoying a little showboating with each pass accompanied by cheers - or where they jeers? - from Meath supporters. Boylan hated that.

The big semi-final victory meant that when going into the final they were seen as "certainities," at least by some Meath supporters, to win. The more cautious had good reason to be fearful because sport can slap you down when you least expect it.

Of course we know it didn't end well for Meath. They lost to Galway in the final, Padraic Joyce almost single-handedly ransacking the hopes of the Royals. Maybe the weight of expectations was too great for the players. No manager wants a team to win a semi-final by a big margin. It can create unrealistic expectations.

The disturbing fact is that Meath have not been back in an All-Ireland SFC final since - and what Meath follower could have thought that as they left Croke Park on the 2nd September 2001 after that big win over Kerry - or even after the defeat to Galway.

Meath fans, fed on a diet of regular triumphs, expected a return to the winners' enclosure. It hasn't happened no doubt for all sorts of different reasons. It shows just how fortunes can change in life and sport. The quest for All-Ireland success hasn't gone well for Meath over the past 20 years. Now they are in danger of becoming a county like Cavan. Once kings, now seemingly permanently exiled from the Promised Land.

Back in 2001, as the flags were put outside houses around the Royal County ahead the All-Ireland final, few could have foreseen the famine would have lasted so long.