August 16, 1991
Meath's Most Consistent Player
It was a moment which will remain indelibly etched in the memories of the Meath supporters who witnessed it. The moment which shattered the dreams of the Dublin followers. The moment Kevin Foley received a pass in front of the Dublin goals and crashed the ball to the net for a goal which brought his side back from the edge of defeat and set Meath up for a dramatic victory over their old rivals in the first round of the championship.
Around Croke Park there was gasps of astonishment not only that Meath had once again clawed their way back into a game which they seemed destined to lose but that the scorer, at the receiving end of the eight player movement, was of all people, Kevin Foley, a wing-half who had never scored for Meath before - at any level.
For the Trim player it was a rare moment, for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that he seldom, if ever, ventures further than the half-way line. It was also unusual in that he found himself the centre of attraction, the focus of sustained media attention which put him firmly in the limelight: a place where the player obviously feels uneasy and which he would gladly avoid.
Foley for sometime now has become known as the quiet man of the Meath team, reluctant to give interviews and managing to remain anonymous despite playing a consistently high standard of football which has won him high praise from supporters throughout the country.
The fact that Foley did not receive even an All Star nomination last year was a decision which surprised many people involved in the game who felt that the Meath half-back had given a series of outstanding performances which had succeeded in neutralising the striking power to three of the most dangerous forwards in the land.
In the Leinster final last year Foley was central in Meath's victory over Dublin when he curbed the marauding skills of Ciaran Duff who was having a very productive season in the Dublin half-forward line. In the All-lreland semi-final against Donegal, which Meath won by 3-9 to 1-7, Foley put the shackles on dangerman Martin McHugh who had one of his quiet days and in the final against Cork, prolific scorer Larry Tomkins failed to register a score from play, even though his side went on to defeat Meath by a margin of 0-11 to 0-9.
It is ironic that in these three performances, which are generally regarded as among his best, Foley was playing at centre-half-back instead of his own customary position of wing-half. He had being asked by manager Sean Boylan to take over the central position after a back injury to Liam Harnan had forced him to take a seat in the stands. With characteristic determination Foley filled his temporary role with a quiet but impressive efficiency.
It is this studied concentration and fierce single-mindedness to the task in hand which has gained the admiration of colleagues and opponents alike but it has also on occasions landed him in trouble with match officials, as, in the 1988 National League final against Dublin when he received his marching orders following a dust up with old rival Ciaran Duff.
But such betrayals of temperament have, according to Meath's captain, Liam Hayes, now become, like long hot summers, a thing of the past. Earlier on in his career Kevin was inclined to be just a little too enthusiastic and he went over the top once or twice but this has changed now and his discipline is something to be admired, he said.
Both team mates and opponents would agree that Kevin Foley's disagreements with referees result more from a fiery desire to gain control of the ball rather than any malicious intent. It is this rugged determination which has marked his football career since he first started performing competitively for his native Trim.
Foley was born into a family in which football was almost second nature. Father, Gerry R.I.P., was an avid follower and nurtured this interest among his sons. In later years Trim people will tell you it was Paddy Keogh a close family friend who had a huge influence on the budding Foley. Certainly watching Paddy in Croke Park he undergoes every move, every muscle twitch his young friend makes.
Kevin's brothers Gerry, Ronan, Brendan and Frank all played senior football for Trim with Frank managing to get himself selected for the Meath Senior squad, but a protracted injury prevented him from making the big breakthrough.
For Kevin it was a gradual and unspectacular progression through the underage teams in Trim with the black curly haired youngster failing to grab the attention of any of the inter county selectors - minor, junior, under-21, all looking elsewhere for their half-backs.
After studying and playing for C.B.S. in Trim and St. Patrick's in Navan, schools which place a strong emphasis on Gaelic games, Foley continued to study at University College Dublin where he took out a degree in Veterinary Science. Even in college the Meathman's interest in foot ball appeared to wane. When colleagues like Colm 'O'Rourke were already making a name for themselves playing for the University in the Sigerson Cup, Foley remained on the outside playing a little soccer but no gaelic football.
But back in Meath he kept his hand in helping the junior Trim team to a championship success in the late seventies. Foley was only eighteen at the time and while he was regarded as a solid, consistent member of the team his performance, as was the case in successive years, remained just that - solid, dependable but providing no indication that he would become a leading member of an All-lreland winning county team.
Foley's arrival on the inter-county scene was typically unannounced, undramatic and unspectacular. He was brought into the squad for the 1986 championship when the emerging Meath team made it to the All-lreland semi-final only to be beaten by Kerry in a match which was distinguished by a three player mix-up in the Meath goalmouth which allowed Ger Power to grab what was later seen as the vital goal - the turning point of the game.
While Kevin Foley was in the panel for that encounter he failed to make it to the last seven picked to occupy the substitutes bench. Gradually he edged his way in, getting his first chance to show his ability on the elevated intercounty level when he was chosen for a series of National League games the following Autumn, doing enough to impress Sean Boylan and the selectors, who kept him on the team for the championship campaign the following year.
Liam Hayes, already in 1987, a veteran in the rigours of championship football remembers the arrival of the lean, spindly looking defender into the ranks of the Meath squad.
"At the time I didn't consider him a candidate for the Meath team. I knew him as a good footballer but very relaxed towards his game. I thought he would be a useful sub. But instead he has developed into one of the best players in the country, certainly our most consistent player over the past two or three years. It is difficult to say what his best performance was since he has had so many, said the Meath captain.
According to two other colleagues, Colm O'Rourke and Terry Ferguson, the reason why Foley is so effective is because he does the simple things well. This means that his work goes unnoticed by many supporters and journalists who fail to give him the credit he deserves, thus his failure to capture an All-Star award.
But O'Rourke and Ferguson also acknowledge that the foundation of Foley's effectiveness is not built solely on skill but rather on a deep rooted willingness to work at his game and develop the qualities given to him. To combine his football ability with his toughness and durability, which have become his hallmark as a Meath player.
As Trim's only representative on the senior county team Foley carries on his shoulders a long tradition. In recent times players from the club have managed to gain lasting reputations on the inter-county level. Both Ollie Shanley and Peter Darby were members of the Meath team which lifted the Sam Maguire in 19§7. when they defeated Cork by 1-7 to 0-7.
In the early seventies the Fay brother, Jimmy and Mickey, were members of the Meath team which threatened to win major honours with Jimmy being part of the Royal County side that was defeated by Kerry in the 1970 final. But success proved elusive, that is until the new dawn broke in September, 1987 when the men in green and gold once more brought Sam back to the banks of the Boyne, again beating Cork by 1-14 to 0~11.
Since that triumph, Foley has become something of a folk hero in the Trim area. A reputation which was enhanced by the performances he gave in the recent long drawn-out series of games against Dublin in which he acted as a dogged bulwark against successive Dublin attacks which at times threatened to engulf the Royal County defence. With his team mates Foley showed his character by refusing to give in to what seemed the inevitable.
Foley acknowledges that the person with the biggest effect on his career has been Meath manager Sean Boylan who was quick to appreciate the half-back's potential and give him the chance to express his ability on the inter county stage. According to Foley the chief driving force behind Meath's recent triumphs is the manager.
"It was Sean Boylan who brought me into the Meath squad and gave me my chance. He is a great motivator and has managed to bring Meath a great deal of success.~
Foley was a relative newcomer to the inter-county senior football scene when he made his senior debut at 27 years of age in 1987. In the intervening four years he has packed as much action into his career as many players would in a decade - if ever.
Despite looking younger than his 31 years Foley, who works as a vet in Limerick, has now become a senior member of a Meath team which at the beginning of this year's championship was regarded by many to be past their best, fuelling endless speculation that this year could be the last for some of the players.
But whenever he does decide to hang up his boots, Kevin Foley will be able to look back at a distinguished career in football and recall some of the most memorable highlights - the All-lreland, the National League and of course that last minute goal against Dublin.
Taken from Hogan Stand
16th August 1991
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