Answering Meath’s call
Given the success enjoyed by Simonstown at underage level in the eighties and early nineties, it was inevitable that many of the club’s players would attract the attention of county selectors at various grades down through the years. Colm Brady and Hank Traynor would be the best known given their exploits with the Meath seniors but there were others who also made their mark in the green and gold jersey.
Colm Brady and the Meath team were foiled in their bid to win the All-Ireland in 1990 when Cork proved their betters in the decider but club-mates Ronan McGrath, Paul O’Brien and Ciaran Moore enjoyed better fortunes that same day as they were members of the Royal County minor panel which claimed national honours at Kerry’s expense in the curtain-raiser.
Ronan lined out at right-half back as Meath clinched the Tom Markham Cup for the first time since 1957 on a scoreline of 2-11 to 2-9. Paul and Ciaran were amongst the substitutes while the team manager was, of course, Simonstown’s Paul Kenny. Future All-Ireland senior winners Graham Geraghty, Enda McManus and Conor Martin also featured on the winning side while, as a matter of interest, 2000 ‘Player of the Year’ Seamus Moynihan and All Star ‘keeper Declan O’Keeffe were on duty for the Kingdom.
Three years later these two teams met again, this time in the All-Ireland U-21 showpiece at Portlaoise and again it was the Royal County who prevailed, 1-8 to 0-10. It was Meath’s first ever All-Ireland success in this grade which made the achievement of Paul Kenny’s charges all the more noteworthy. Simonstown had a strong representation; Ronan McGrath occupied the number 4 jersey while this time Graham Cooke and Kenny Cantwell were on the bench. Paul Meade had been involved with the panel earlier that year.
Kenny Cantwell was Simonstown’s sole representative on the county minor team which scored a last gasp victory over Armagh in the All-Ireland final a year earlier. He was a right-corner back on the day. Paul O’Brien would more than likely also have played a part that year had a back injury not ruled him out of contention.
Both Paul and Kenny and Ronan McGrath and Paul Meade were members of the Meath team which lost the 1991 Leinster MFC first round to Dublin in Walterstown. Colm Keys, meanwhile, collected a Leinster U-21 souvenir the same year. The Royal County qualified for another Tom Markham decider in 1993 but despite the best efforts of Ned Kearney and Hank Traynor, both of whom were corner-backs, they were defeated by Cork.
Ned Kearney was eligible for the U-18 grade again in 1994 but, surprisingly, a team which also contained Darren Fay, Paddy Reynolds, Mark O’Reilly, Barry Callaghan and Ray McGee failed to make an impression in the provincial championship.
That same crop returned in 1997 and fared much better in the u-21 competition with Simonstown’s Cian McGrath and Alan Meade new faces on the first XV along with Ned. The Leinster championship was garnered courtesy of a 1-11 to 0-7 win over Westmeath but Derry proved to be one bridge too far in the All-Ireland final which was played in Clones. Present Oak Leaf County senior stars such as Enda Muldoon, Sean Marty Lockhart, Paul McFlynn and Johnny McBride.
This was Ned’s second Leinster U-21 souvenir, 12 months earlier, he and Hank played their parts in the Royals’ 1-8 to 0-8 final victory over neighbours Louth in Parnell Park.
More recently, meanwhile, Seamus Kenny and Ronan Brady were left-half back and right-half forward respectively on the Meath U-21 team which lost out to neighbours Westmeath in the Leinster final of 2000. Seamus made amends in early April of this year when he again donned the number 7 jersey as rivals Dublin were overcome by 0-10 to 0-5 in the Leinster final. Seamus’ father, Paul, was once again donning the banisiteoir bib.
These are the Simonstown players who were lucky enough to savour success on the intercounty scene but there were others who also earned county recognition Philip Traynor, for example, was captain of the minor team which succumbed to Offaly in the Leinster MFC semi-final of 1989. Mickey Byrne and Alan Kavanagh were introduced as substitutes during that defeat.
Brendan Martin (minor), Alan Meade and Niall Kiernan (minor ’96), Paul Reilly (minor 1997), Seamus Kenny (minor ’98) and Ronan Kenny (minor ’00).
At the time of writing Ronan is involved with this year’s minor team. They will have played their first round championship game on May 12th.
Of all those mentioned – leaving aside Colm Brady and Hank Traynor – five have played competitively at senior level for Meath. Ronan McGrath was a panel member in 1993, ’94 and ’95. Ned Kearney was involved from 1997 to the end of the 1998/’99 League campaign. He was a corner-back on the team which suffered that shock defeat to Offaly in the Leinster final of ’98.
Paul O’Brien made a couple of appearances as a subsitute in the 1998/’99 NFL campaign while Ronan McGrath, Cian McGrath and Eric O’Reilly featured in the first round O’Byrne Cup defeat against Westmeath at the beginning of 2000. A sixth, Seamus Kenny experienced his first taste of senior action during the club’s inaugural floodlit tournament last October.
Of the non-home grown talent to have pulled on the Simonstown jersey, Des Lane is a holder of two All-Ireland senior medals. While with his native Slane he earned a call-up to the county squad and was a member of the victorious Meath panels of 1987 and ’88.
Des joined the club at the beginning of 1995 and played a prominent role in the Intermediate championship success of that year. He is currently a senior selector. Along with Ned Kearney, he was a member of the Meath junior team which reached the 1996 All-Ireland final before losing to Cork. Ronan McGrath and Paul Meade featured in earlier rounds of that competition before both departed for America.
Another Simonstown player who featured in the successful Intermediate campaign, Cathal Ryan, captained his native Offaly to O’Byrne Cup success in 1992 while current senior star Gareth O’Neill has played for Armagh, Louth and Leinster. He also captained a successful O’Byrne Cup winning team, Louth in 1997, and won a Railway Cup souvenir the same year.
The O’Reilly brothers from Bellewstown, Eric and Hugh John, have also played competitively at minor level with Meath, in 1998 and 2000 respectively. So there you have it, Simonstown’s contribution to Meath teams – and other county sides – down through the years briefly summed up. Hopefully, more will follow suit in the near future.