"When Sean Boylan was around, you didn’t need a psychologist or a counsellor - he did it all himself"
There's an aura about the Meath teams of days gone by.
Con Houlihan, that legendary sports journalist, once wrote about the kids in Dublin and their belief that Mick Lyons was kept in a cage in Summerhill, and that he lived off raw meat.
Into the 90s and 2000s and similar may have been thought of Darren Fay or indeed of the fearless Tommy Dowd. Of course, much of these visions of muck-savagery are overstated, with the row of 1996 for example, helping to blow the Royal image out of the park.
But as the hard men of Meath, from one generation to the next, stood up and stood over all of the others, people inevitably tried to put a finger on what it was that made them so tough. And the one constant through it all, was that man Sean Boylan.
"People had this idea about us that we were a sort of a crowd of half savages who were tempted down from the mountains with raw meat on Sunday afternoons," says Colm O'Rourke.
With imaginations running riot, onlookers concluded that Boylan himself was the bear-poker, this barking bipolar who transformed from a calm, unassuming figure in the public eye, to a fully blown mad man in the sanctuary of the dressing room.
Indeed, the vision of Boylan's Meath team preparing for a big game by watching a 15-20 minute compilation of all the big hits they'd landed in games over the previous five years, to the music of Queen's another one bites the dust, does this reputation no harm.
But O'Rourke maintains that Boylan was the same inside and outside the dressing room, that the famed Meath bravery and courage, came from within.
"In actual fact, our dressing room was always a very calm place..."
"A lot of people would say that, oh Jaysus Sean Boylan must have been a wicked man in the dressing room and that he comes across as a very calm persona outside it...but that was actually the way he was inside it as well.
"Sean Boylan was a bit of a genius when it came to just knowing how a team looked, whether we needed more, whether we needed less! There was plenty of times when we trained very little and the training sessions were very light and we often were thinking to ourselves, you know, ‘are we ready to go?’ and yet I can never recall a day in Croke Park when the team weren’t fit and well. He just seemed to have that bit of a touch, that he didn’t do it on the basis of science but he did it on the basis of his eye."
The Dunboyne man was no dictator, no control freak. He treated the Meath players like adults and in turn they would act like adults.
"Like in terms of say drink or anything like that, I don’t think I ever heard him mentioning drink or fellas shouldn’t drink or don’t drink," says O'Rourke.
"I remember we went to Scotland before the game against Dublin, the fourth game, and we had an absolutely brilliant weekend and we drank the hotel we stayed in dry! And that was a week, six days before the game. Like if fellas did that now, they’d be laughed out of court. We did the same before an All-Ireland replay, we had a big night out and Sean was in the middle of it all and having the craic with everybody and never mentioned anything about drink!
The Sean Boylan documentary airs on RTÉ this Thursday night at 10.10. Watch our preview with Colm O'Rourke and David Beggy here.
"So he basically dropped me on the flight, and I was dying with a hangover so this was a tough flight for me!"
Sean Boylan had some magical ways ⭐ pic.twitter.com/CVWovoS5OP
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) August 4, 2020