The Famine Is Over!!
76 years of tortuous waiting was washed away in a magical day in Navan.
The Mattie McDonnell Cup will reside in Longwood for the next 12 months. We promise to give Mattie a warm welcome and safe lodging.
The 30th day of September in the year 2018 will forever be remembered as the day our heroic panel of footballers joined the immortals of our national sport. The players and management team will go down in history as the group who secured the Intermediate Championship for Longwood. In doing so they ensured that we will play Senior Championship Football in 2019. Bravo to one and all.
The past couple of weeks had seen excitement levels build and build towards yesterday’s crescendo. To their credit, the management and players seemed to insulate themselves from this excitement, cocooning themselves in their bubble and doing everything possible to treat the final as “just another game”. Such a task is easier said than done but they did so brilliantly.
Taking on a tough Ballinlough outfit who had recent experience of playing in and winning an IFC final was no small task yet our boys have shown all season that they are up for the challenge. When the team took to the field in Páirc Tailteann yesterday afternoon, they settled quickly with no visible sign of nerves.
Importantly, all players seemed to get an early touch of the ball. Longwood’s possession game requires all players to demonstrate calmness and confidence when in possession of the football and nobody was found wanting on the big day.
Aaron Ennis opened the scoring with a fine point from play after just two minutes. We didn’t realise it at the time but Longwood had taken a lead that they would never relinquish. Playing with the wind at their backs, they dominated the next five minutes and crucially translated this superiority to scores on the board thanks to the ever-dependable left foot of Ryan Moore - a pair of well taken frees followed by a beautiful point from play ensured Longwood’s ace marksman was off to a good start.
Ballinlough were struggling to cope with Longwood’s power and off-the-ball running and this was further demonstrated when Anthony Healy, immense all through the game, burst through the defence and set up Evan Coyle with a perfectly measured hand pass. The young wing forward bore down on goal and beat the goalkeeper with a low shot which unfortunately rebounded away of the left-hand post. While Ballinlough started to make some inroads into Longwood territory they could not register a score. Former Meath star Peadar Byrne, who was superbly marshalled by Niall Mulvey throughout proceedings, was uncharacteristically off target with a couple of opportunities from placed balls. Longwood too were guilty of some wayward shooting, hitting four wides from play. Once again it was Ryan Moore who broke the impasse with a booming free from all of 45 metres to push the advantage out to 5 points.
Barely a minute later, another lung bursting run from Anthony Healy set up Wayne Leonard with a clear goal-scoring chance but before the corner forward could pull the trigger he was pulled to the ground by the Ballinlough keeper. The referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, issuing the keeper with a yellow card for his troubles. Mickey Burke stepped up to take the spot kick; he struck the ball low towards to the left corner, but credit must go to the keeper who got down fast to smother the ball.
This seemed to immediately energise the Ballinlough support and players as they quickly moved the ball down the field and registered their opening score. Two more points from play in the remaining minutes saw the margin narrowed to just 2 points at halftime. The 0-5 to 0-3 scoreline was hardly an accurate reflection of Longwood’s dominance through most of the opening 30 minutes. The supporters could be forgiven for feeling somewhat anxious knowing their team would be playing against the elements in the second half.
We should have known better. These boys have battled against adversity all season long. Most recently, they showed amazing courage and perseverance to grind out victories against Trim and Ballinabrackey. On both occasions it looked like the season was about to end in defeat but the team never buckled and their class and unwillingness to yield shone through.
And so it was yesterday; Longwood would go on to score a further six points in the second half while restricting their opponents to just four. Ballinlough reduced the deficit to a single point after five minutes. It was now that Longwood needed leadership and, as so often in the past, Mickey Burke was up to the job. Shaking off the disappointment of the first half penalty miss, Burke demanded the ball and carried it deep into Ballinlough territory before fisting an excellent point from a tight angle. It was more than just a point, it was a message of defiance. Longwood were not going to be denied. Not today.
Once again Ballinlough reduced the deficit, once again Longwood responded; this time from the boot of Corran Byrne who kicked a fantastic point less than a minute after being introduced to the game. Another free from Ryan Moore pushed the lead out to three points at the mid-point of the second half. Moore repeated the dose with 5 minutes left on the clock, this an even more impressive free into the wind on the right-hand side of the field. In a relatively low scoring game four points seemed like a big lead but when you are trying to make a breakthrough no lead is big enough. The referee indicated that there would be at least three minutes of injury time to be played. After 76 years, we would now have to endure another three minutes!
To add to the tension Ballinlough scored a deflected point to leave just 3 points between the teams. Longwood showed tremendous composure in defence and methodically worked the ball up the field where it eventually reached the hands of Aaron Ennis who calmly slotted over the insurance point. The score was greeted by sheer joy from the Longwood faithful who now realised that victory was assured.
The final whistle was warmly welcomed and the huge support, including masses of juveniles looking resplendent in their club colours, invaded the pitch to congratulate their heroes. Tears of joy flowed freely as the players were mobbed by their adoring fans.
A few minutes later our captain Joey Stenson, who gave such a fantastic display on the pitch, delivered a speech that would have graced All Ireland Final day in Croke Park. Joey rightly thanked his fellow players, the management team, the backroom team, the club executive and everybody who worked so hard behind the scenes that this magical day might become a reality. Joey also made a poignant reference to his late father PJ and to the late Enda Cully, two great Longwood Gaels who, despite no longer being with us, will live long in the memory of the Longwood GAA family.
The long wait is over. We have much to be thankful for. We thank all the players - these lads are to be greatly admired. They have sacrificed so much to achieve their goal and they deserve to enjoy the rewards. They probably don’t even realise the joy and pleasure they have brought to our little community.
We thank the management team – David Flynn ably assisted by Enda Dixon and Michael McGuigan. These are men of the highest integrity. They go about their jobs in a quiet and methodical manner. They leave no stone unturned when it comes to preparing the team. Most importantly they command the respect of the players who go to battle for Longwood. Well done lads.
A massive thank you to the supporters. It was fantastic to see such a large Longwood crowd in Páirc Tailteann yesterday. There must have been nobody left in the village! To see so many juvenile players at the game was incredibly heartening and there can be no doubt that many of them will have been inspired to play senior football for Longwood in the years ahead.
We give due credit and respect to our opponents from Ballinlough. Like ourselves they are a relatively small rural club fighting the good fight for their parish and community. They will be back and we wish them well for the future.
But for now, the glory belongs to Longwood. We must savour and enjoy these days for they are truly special days. The scenes of jubilation that greeted the victorious team as they arrived back in Longwood will live long in the memory of all who were lucky enough to have been there. Every club deserves a day like this. Thankfully, at last, it was Longwood’s turn.
We remember all the great players that have soldiered for Longwood on the playing fields over the past 76 years. Wherever they are we hope that they are all smiling and possibly raising a glass to our new heroes – the 2018 Meath Intermediate Football Champions.
It has a nice ring to it!
Gary Heneghan – solid as always in goals and kick-outs were excellent.
Chris Lynch – tough and tenacious as always, brilliant first half interception preventing a certain goal chance.
Damien Healy – unstoppable force, numerous runs up the field creating overlaps and scoring opportunities for his team mates.
Niall Mulvey – incredible performance from Longwood’s young gladiator. As in previous rounds he sacrificed his attacking instincts to nullify the opposition’s danger man.
Bob Maguire – took the fight to Ballinlough throughout and worked tirelessly up and down the field.
Joey Stenson – inspirational performance, one of his best, from Captain Fantastic. Dispossessed Ballinlough forwards a number of times and joined the attack to great effect on many occasions.
Karl Ennis – covered every blade of grass in Páirc Tailteann, distributing the ball well and always making himself available for his team mates.
Anthony Healy – towering performance, Ballinlough just couldn’t cope with his power and athleticism
Eoin Lynch – another typically excellent performance, strong on the ball always making himself available to provide support. Cool and calm under pressure.
Sean Sheridan – always showed well and was unlucky not to register a score after a fantastic second half run.
Ryan Moore (0-7) – seven points on the biggest of days says it all. Always there when called upon. Is there a better left foot in Meath?
Evan Coyle – perpetual motion from one of our younger players. A constant threat to the opposing defence and his work rate when tackling back was equally important.
Aaron Ennis (0-2) – book-ended the game with a pair of excellent points. Always available for his team mates and never shirked the responsibility to shoot when the opportunity arose.
Mickey Burke (0-1) – Longwood’s talisman worked his socks off. The penalty miss would have rocked a lesser man, but it drove Burkey on to give a massive performance in the second half.
Wayne Leonard – despite carrying an injury into the game, showed up well and won a penalty. Also made several strong covering runs back to help his defence.
Corran Byrne (0-1) – introduced for Wayne Leonard in the second half, made an immediate impact with a fine score and handled a lot of ball during those pressure-filled last 10 minutes.
Longwood’s 2018 IFC Journey
Round 1: Longwood 3-12 Dunderry 1-13
Round 2: Longwood 2-13 Kilmainham 2-11
Round 3: Syddan 4-9 Longwood 2-12
Round 4: Longwood 1-19 Meath Hill 0-7
Round 5: Longwood 0-15 Drumbaragh 1-12
Quarter Final: Longwood 4-17 Trim 2-15 AET
Semi Final: Longwood 1-10 Ballinabrackey 0-12
FINAL: LONGWOOD 0-11 BALLINLOUGH 0-7