1998 All Ireland Junior Champions Reunion

On Friday, 13th October, the Louth Ladies 1998 All Ireland Junior Championship winning team descended upon the Gateway Hotel in Dundalk to reminisce and celebrate their sweet All-Ireland success some 25 years earlier. 

The Louth LGFA County Board organised and hosted a wonderful reunion enjoyed and appreciated by all attendees. A few of the team members could not attend – Lorraine, Roisin, Karen, Claire and Ann were missed!

Marty Morrissey was not available, so Dermot Woods obligingly acted as Compère for the evening, offering insightful commentary to the team’s 1998 National League Campaign (when we were beaten by Dublin in the Division 3 final) and the successful All-Ireland crusade. Dermot reminded of us score-lines and team tactics forgotten in the midst of the intervening years. Team and actions photos adorned the walls, and we were treated to a rerun of 1998 final against Roscommon on the big screen. Marty did provide commentary for that 1998 final!

While watching the ‘98 final, several things became apparent very quickly. Firstly, we started the final very slowly and our nerves nearly overcame us.  Thankfully Lyn (Savage) was brilliant in goals, and kept us in the game until we found our stride. Secondly, our team possessed a great unwavering spirit. We had leaders in every line on the pitch, from Fiona Sweeney in the full back line to Nuala Murphy in the full forward line.  This same team spirit was still on display 25 years on, with jokes, celebrations and some minor slagging (Drummer) about our 1998 performances. Thirdly, it is also fair to say that football gear and hairstyles (Edel) have also evolved in the intervening period. For the better, you may ask? We should allow everyone to draw their own conclusions here!

As the night progressed, Dermot interviewed our victorious manager, Tony Melia, and our inspirational captain, Cathy Reynolds. Tony shared his memories of the successful 1998 campaign and his experience of managing the team. He told us that he was not in the least bit concerned about us going behind 1-3 to no score, as he knew all was in hand! Cathy was as gracious as ever, as she reminisced about the 1998 season including the Leinster final victory, the surprise semi-final win against Tyrone, and the All-Ireland success.  Cathy poignantly reflected on the personal tragedy that befell her and her family at the final with the loss of her precious father Brian.

Dermot also spoke with team selector, Dermot Agnew, who praised the dedication of the 1998 team and highlighted the support provided by the wider Louth GAA family for the team, with a special mention of the Sean O’Mahony’s who provided their grounds for training. Joey Kirk, myself and Emma’s late father was also a selector for the 1998 team. Dermot Woods spoke about Dad’s role with the team. It felt like a part of him was with us at the evening.

The current Louth LGFA Chairperson, Liam O’Neill, provided an update on the current Louth Ladies team and outlined the teams’ aspirations for the year.  We hope to be in Croke Park supporting them on Ladies All- Ireland final day in 2024!

 During the evening, the LFGA County Board presented team members and mentors with a beautiful crystal souvenir as a memento celebrating the achievements of 1998. The presentation was done by the Louth LGFA special guests Finbarr O’Driscoll and Wally Thompson, both former presidents of Leinster LGFA Council. Wally was the LGFA president between 2000 and 2003.  Finbarr was also a former inter-county referee, and through this role he came to know some of the Louth players better than others (no names here!).

As part of the presentation, Dermot Woods (in true Marty Morrissey style) had a well-honed intro for each player. Some audience members engaged in minor heckling, but it was all in good taste! There was also a special mention for Elaine Rogan who won player of the match in the final, after a terrific display scoring 2-2 from midfield. Presentations were also made to 1998 County Board officials including vice-chairperson Nicholas Rafferty from Cooley and County Board Treasurer Sue Callan from Naomh Malachi. Special praise was extended to Johann Fedigan from Hunterstown, who has been a LGFA committee member since she was 16.

As we bid farewell to our former teammates, mentors, and coaches the nostalgia of our time together in 1998 filled the air. We couldn’t help but reflect on how often we used to see each other, sometimes more than our own families. It was a time filled with laughter, camaraderie, and shared dreams. The lyrics from Mary Hopkins’ hit song “Those were the days” seemed particularly fitting.

“Oh, my friend, we’re older but no wiser. For in our hearts, the dreams are still the same.”

The words resonated deeply within us, reminding us that although we may have aged, our hearts still hold onto the same dreams and aspirations as before. Before parting ways, we made sure to remind Dermot, Liam, and Johann that 2024 would mark the 25-year anniversary of our 1999 All Ireland Intermediate championship success. We couldn’t help but suggest that we should come together once again to relive those moments of triumph and create new memories – hopefully they were listening.