Louth look for first Championship victory in almost 50 years against old rivals Meath

Louth full-back Dermot Campbell returns to fitness ahead of Saturday’s clash after recovering from a hamstring injury

The micro to begin with, Dermot Campbell’s hamstring injury. The Louth full-back was named to start the Leinster semi-final against Kildare but was withdrawn on the day and didn’t start the final against Dublin either.

“It’s all good,” reported Campbell, giving two thumbs up on his availability for Saturday evening’s All-Ireland SFC clash with Meath. Which is where we get to the macro and the full scale of an epic rivalry between two north eastern neighbours.

Asked if Louth view Meath as their greatest rival, Campbell wore a look that suggested he’d be filing that one to his folder marked “stupid questions”.

“Em ... yeah,” he deadpanned.


Chances are neither will win the All-Ireland but if one was to beat the other, well, there’d be considerable consolation in that. Particularly for Louth as it’s almost half a century since they last beat Meath in a Championship game, back in 1975.

From Graham Geraghty flying into Navan in a helicopter in 2002 to break Louth hearts, to Joe Sheridan’s touchdown in the 2010 Leinster final to Mathew Costello’s more recent slaloming solo goal in this season’s league, the Royals have long since reigned in the region.

There’s been the odd insurgence from Louth, like relegating Seamus McEnaney’s Meath to Division Three with a final round league win in 2012, but it’s been a largely one-sided rivalry.

Campbell was there for the Geraghty game, only a kid at the time.

“I would have been at them all,” grimaced Campbell. “I would have been at a game in Croke Park where we were a couple of points up as well, I think it was 2006, 2007, and Meath came back. So look, Meath have had the upper hand, no doubt, against Louth in Championship games and as a supporter back then it was tough.”

The picture looks a lot different now though. When was the last time Meath approached a Championship game against Louth as almost 2/1 underdogs?

Pulling themselves up by the bootstraps under Mickey Harte and Ger Brennan, Louth can now count themselves as the second best team in Leinster given their league and Championship results in the last two seasons.

Still, those old memories are hard to shift, particularly the 2010 encounter at Croke Park.

“I was 16 at the time,” said Campbell. “Jesus, all those players were my idols and we were so close to winning that final. What happened towards the end of that game was pandemonium. But I’d often look back on that game and, without criticising anyone, Louth had chances to close that out, and probably should have shown more composure towards the end of that game in terms of there was a ball hoofed away and it came back to a Meath man.”

Peter Fitzpatrick was the Louth manager at the time and, 10 years later, was asked to reflect on the game and the chaotic ending. “I don’t think there’s a day that passes that I don’t think about it,” he said, describing it as “one of the biggest scandals that ever was”.

All that old hurt will surely come flooding out again if it’s another tight game this weekend. Louth, technically, are at home having chosen Inniskeen to host the game but both sets of supporters will be on new ground just inside the Monaghan border.

“It’s a special match,” said Campbell. “It’s going to be a different type of venue but it’s something we’re really looking forward to.”

It remains to be seen how Louth set themselves up. They were cautious against Dublin in the Leinster final and played a counter attacking game. It paid off, for the most part, and they even netted twice, bringing their goals tally to 19 since the start of the league.

Maybe they will opt to release the handbrake a little against Meath and attempt to bring their talented forwards into the game more often.

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” predicted Campbell. “Meath never lay down against us and it was the same in the league this year. We went four or five up and they showed serious grit and determination to stick with us and they eventually got out on the right side of the result, which was unfortunate for us.”