Pairc Tailteann witnessed GAA history on Sunday.
Meath and Longford competed in the first ever tie-breaking free-taking competition, after the O’Byrne Cup semi-final finished level on 1-19 to 2-16 after extra-time.
The Royals prevailed 2-1 in the shootout, with Mark McCabe and Cillian O’Sullivan finding the target from the 45 metre line.
Only three out of the 10 kicks were converted in the fading light, and the lack of visibility prompted referee Ciaran Flynn to blare Bruce Springsteen’s apt ‘Dancing in the Dark’ over the tannoy.
Sean Tobin missed Meath’s first free, and Robbie Smyth also failed to split the post with Longford’s first attempt.
Mark McCabe (nicknamed Maniac 2000) then took his chance to become the first man to score in the new system, but both sides continued to find it difficult.
Sean McCormack registered Longford’s only score, with his teammate James McGivney missing the free which sealed victory for the home side.
Each player had the option to kick it from their hands or off the ground, and Longford goalkeeper Paddy Collum was the only player to opt for the latter option.
“It was a pretty spectacular endorsement for the new rule,” former Meath forward Bernard Flynn told Morning Ireland.
“It was an iconic moment, history in the making. It added huge excitement to the end of the game.”
— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) January 15, 2018
The rule was passed by Congress last September, and will be in place for this year’s League and Championship.
It’s certainly an exciting and tense way to decide a match, and will help ease fixture congestion and complications by decreasing the amount of replays this year.
“It was exciting,” Meath boss Andy McEntee conceded afterwards.
“I spoke to a few people afterwards and they seemed to enjoy how it finished, probably more than I did.
“It’s tough, if you’re after playing 70 minutes, plus 20 minutes of extra-time, and then you’re asked to kick it that distance like, I didn’t realise it was a 50-yard free. There was a bit of a breeze behind, but a 50-yard free-kick is a fair effort if you’ve just played 90 minutes.
“But look, in a competition like that, when the final has to be played next weekend, what’s wrong with it?”
Meath will now face their rivals and neighbours Westmeath – who beat Offaly by 1-9 to 1-7 in the other semi-final.
The decider will take place in Port Laois next Sunday at 4pm.
David is the editor of The Season Ticket.
He is a qualified journalist, and a long-suffering Meath and Liverpool supporter.