IFC Semi-Final: Longwood 1-10 Ballinabrackey 0-12
The dream is still alive for Longwood as our Intermediate footballers qualified for the 2018 championship final with a hard fought victory over old rivals Ballinabrackey.
As in last week’s epic quarter final victory over Trim, Longwood produced an amazing comeback late in the game, turning defeat into victory with a trio of fantastic long range points in front of their legion of fans.
While weather conditions were dry and the playing surface was excellent, a strong breeze did have an impact on the game. Longwood played against the breeze in the opening half and, initially at least, made light of the elements and opened the scoring after just four minutes thanks to a well taken point from Anthony Healy. Having hit three early wides, Ballinabrackey then hit a brace of points in quick succession to assume the lead.
Then a pivotal moment in the game; a barnstorming run from Damien Healy saw him collect a deft hand pass from Aaron Ennis before jinking inside the Bracks last line of defence and placing the ball off the outside of his left boot (á la Messi) in the bottom corner of the net. This fantastic score was rightly acclaimed by the large Longwood support in Páirc Tailteann. The goal, given that it was scored against the wind, would ultimately grow in importance.
As to be expected from a team who have performed well in Division 2 of the league, Ballinabrackey remained calm and slowly began to exert a measure of control on proceedings. A run of four successive points saw them take a two point lead midway through the half. Pointed frees from Ryan Moore and Anthony Healy kept Longwood in touch but their opponents secured the final scores of the opening period; two late points giving them a half time lead of 0-9 to 1-3.
Play resumed with both teams looking somewhat nervous. With so much at stake, we can understand how a couple of early opportunities were allowed to slip by. Longwood eventually got the scoreboard moving again thanks to a tremendous free, from all of 45 metres, from the trusty left boot of Ryan Moore. This was the signal for the boys to move up a gear and a flurry of excellent points from Eoin Lynch, Mickey Burke and Wayne Leonard saw them grab the lead from their rivals.
Once again the Bracks stood tall, tacking on three points of their own to take a two point lead with only 8 minutes left on the clock. Indeed it could have been much worse were it not for the heroics of Gary Heneghan in the Longwood goals. The custodian showed tremendous reflexes to prevent at least 3 goals in the second half. These fantastic saves would later bear fruit.
The men in green seemed intent on running down the clock as time and again they played the ball over and back across the pitch. The Longwood faithful were becoming increasingly nervous as the seconds ticked by but the players, to their credit, remained patient and stuck to their game plan. Damien Carroll, who had caused problems for Longwood all afternoon with his direct running, eventually decided that enough was enough but his shot was wayward. This gave Longwood an opportunity to move the ball down the field which they did effectively, culminating with a superb long range point from Mickey Burke. Longwood pushed up on the ensuing kick-out and less than 60 seconds later, Anthony Healy drew the sides level with a fine score from open play.
With a place in the Intermediate Championship final up for grabs, Longwood went for the jugular. Again they pressurised the kick-out, ultimately forcing a line ball under the stands. A few moments later, as we moved into the second minute of stoppage time, a well-worked move saw the ball arrive in the hands of Ryan Moore 45 metres out from goal – the centre forward composed himself and struck a fantastic ball which curled inside the left post to send the supporters into delirious rapture.
Try as they might Ballinabrackey could not fashion another scoring opportunity and, after what seemed like an eternity, the referee finally brought the game to an end.
The supporters politely invaded the pitch and embraced their heroes. These boys, players and management team, have given so much for Longwood this year and they deserve enormous credit. They have brought joy to our community. Their herculean efforts will undoubtedly inspire our juvenile players and teach them that representing Longwood is an honour rather than a chore.
A word of acknowledgement too for the players and supporters of Ballinabrackey who, despite suffering such a painful loss, were quick to congratulate their counterparts from Longwood and wish them well in the final. Sport as it should be.
Longwood: Gary Heneghan, Paul Gill, Damien Healy (1-0), Chris Lynch, Joey Stenson, Eoin Lynch (0-1), Karl Ennis, Bob Maguire, Anthony Healy (0-3), Niall Mulvey, Ryan Moore (0-3), Evan Coyle, Aaron Ennis, Mickey Burke (0-2), Wayne Leonard (0-1). Subs: Coran Byrne for Paul Gill, Sean Sheridan for Karl Ennis.
As we move through September and the evenings begin to shorten, the people of Longwood (be they at home or abroad) can dare to dream……………………..
Maigh Dearmhaí abú