2018 – A Season of Seasons
As the New Year dawns, it’s only right that we take some time to reflect on the year just past.
In many ways its difficult to summon up the words to describe 2018.
Bliain draíochta would probably sum it up best
The year got off to a quiet start, to the uninformed observer at least.
Behind the scenes much was happening. The senior panels were busily preparing for another year (we would later discover that it wasn’t just another year). The juvenile teams from Go Games through to Minor were also setting out on the road to competitve action. Our youngest players had joined our GAA nursery and were enjoying life as they were introduced to our national games. Vinny Byrne, our Juvenile Chairman, had taken on the extra responsibility of Féile Co-Ordinator for the club and his efforts would bear fruit on a glorious weekend in late June.
Amazingly as we entered Spring, our footballers had already kicked off their season; life in ACFL Division 3 getting under way as early as January 25th. Longwood, who had won the Division 4 League title in late 2017, maintained the winning habit when they opened the campaign with a 1-12 to 1-7 victory over Dunsany. While it may not have seemed significant at the time, it proved that the boys were more than capable of competing in Division 3.
The following weeks saw the team compete strongly – a narrow defeat to Kilmainham followed by consecutive draws against St Vincents and Drumbaragh – reinforcing the view that Longwood were a team that demanded respect.
The month of March saw Longwood secure home victories over Clann Na nGael and Cortown. While the margin of victory was relatively tight in both games, Longwood were demonstrating that they could perform well under pressure. Such a characteristic is crucial for any team with designs on success. The last day in March saw our senior hurlers launch their league campaign with victory over Kilskyre/Moylagh. A sign of things to come?
April, the newly designated “month for clubs” saw the Intermediate Football Championship get under way. In all honesty Longwood, outside of the players, management and supporters, would not have been regarded as genuine contenders for championship glory. This view was bolstered further by the fact that they were drawn in Group B with Dunderry, Syddan and Meath Hill, all of whom would be deemed potential championship victors. Longwood were to confound such predictions from the outset. The opening round of championship fixtures were scheduled for April 8th and the schedule dictated that Longwood would square up to Dunderry in Páirc Tailteann.
Longwood signalled their intent with victory on a scoreline of 3-12 to 1-13. The boys proved that they could mix it with the best and rack up a score should the need arise.
The second round of the championship, later in April, saw Longwood defeat Kilmainham by three points in Paddy O’Brien Park. The satisfaction of another victory was tempered somewhat by the fact that Niall Mulvey had received a somewhat questionable red card and would miss the next round of the IFC. That said, two wins out of two represented an excellent return as the championship entered its mid-term break.
April ended, from a senior perspective, with the hurlers squeezing past Navan O’Mahonys in the second round of the ACHL Division 2. Our juvenile hurlers and footballers commenced their respective seasons with some early success at all age groups from U12 through to U17 age brackets.
While it may be a distant memory at this stage, the months of February & March saw significant snowfall across the country. The extreme weather presented formidable challenges to players, coaches and ground staff but all displayed great dedication in the face of such meteorological adversity.
As we moved into May, the weather gods decreed that we had suffered enough and blessed us with seemingly uninterrupted sunshine for the next 3 months.
Féile Peile Na nÓg was now firmly on our radar – the annual All Ireland Festival for U14 Football was to take place across counties Meath, Louth and Down at the end of June. Longwood had volunteered to act as a host club for the weekend of the competition and we were delighted to hear that our visitors would arrive all the way from Brittany, France. A number of our U14 families very kindly offered to open up their homes for 4 nights to accommodate our visitors and we continue to appreciate their spirit of hospitality and generosity.
With Féile looming our under age teams hit the ground running in our domestic competitions. Longwood/Killyon’s U16 hurlers stormed through the group stages of the Spring League before beating a fancied Trim team in the semi-final. Their reward was a joust with Ratoath in the league final – the ultimate game of two halves saw our boys overturn an 11 point deficit to prevail by a single point, helped in no small part by a rasping goal from Quin Fisher. Longwood/Killyon’s U14 hurlers also secured some early season silverware edging past Trim in the Shield Final.
Longwood’s U12 footballers embarked on what would ultimately prove to be an incredibly successful campaign (they would go through the season undefeated) by finishing top of their group in the Spring League. They duly qualified for the semi-finals where they faced Blackhall Gaels; despite a somewhat nervy first half which saw the boys trail by 5 points at the interval, the players showed their class and determination for all in attendance. They dominated the second half and secured a comfortable victory. Their opponents in the final would be Moynalvey. They were to become a familiar rival as the season progressed. The final was played in glorious sunshine in Dunganny and Longwood’s boys and girls were simply outstanding. They produced a spectacular performance, winning comfortably on a scoreline of 0-20 to 0-8. They would repeat the dose in the Summer League later in the year. A team of future stars – we hope to see them represent Longwood for years to come.
Our U14 footballers were just as impressive in qualifying for the Spring League Final, they too would face up to Moynalvey in the decider. Unfortunately they lost out narrowly on the day, the loss of a number of players due to holidays certainly did not help but congratulations must go to Moynalvey who deserved their day in the sun.
All eyes now turned to Féile; our organising committee, the club executive and club members pulled out all the stops to ensure the club grounds and facilities were resplendent for the big weekend. Our French visitors arrived on Thursday 28th June and they were quite rightly treated like VIPs for the following four days. That they would go on to win their Divisional Shield on Finals Sunday only served to make the weekend even more memorable. Longwood’s Féile Panel performed incredibly well over the course of the weekend, winning two matches, losing only to a pair of very strong opponents from Tyrone and Mayo. As always the team represented our club with tremendous dedication and pride. Well done boys!
The entire Féile experience will be cherished by all who either participated in or witnessed the proceedings over those incredible few days. A word of appreciation to our senior players who contributed greatly to the event and showed real class when affording the French team a guard of honour on the Sunday evening, despite the fact that they had an important championship on that same evening. Brittany happily repaid the compliment by attending the SHC match in Athboy and they were thrilled to witness Longwood come out on top against Boardsmill.
There was a slightly sombre feeling as we gathered at the clubhouse the following morning to bid Au Revoir to our guests. We had enjoyed hosting our new friends and we were desperately sad to see them leave. They had contributed handsomely to an amazing adventure. We can only hope that our paths will cross again in the future.
We didn’t know it at the time but there was to be life after Féile! Indeed the months that followed were to bring unimaginable success to our club. The first sign of what was to follow appeared on July 14th when our Senior hurlers ran out convincing winners of the ACHL Division 2 Final with a 1-22 to 1-12 victory over Navan O’Mahonys. This marked a second consecutive League title for the club and further illustrated the progress being made at senior level; just reward for all the players and coaches commitment and hard work.
Our senior hurlers continued their progress through the SHC with a third consecutive victory and were now on course for a quarter-final place.
Our U12 hurlers performed with great distinction throughout the summer of 2018. They won a number of games and were unlucky to lose two others by the narrowest of margins. This talented group have improved enormously under the tutelage of Enda Dixon and Jim Dorran and there’s no doubt they will achieve tangible success in the years ahead.
Longwood/Clonard’s U16 footballers competed strongly in Division 3 of the League. The boys won 4 of their 7 games before succumbing to eventual champions Kilbride in the knock-out stages.
Special mention to Alan Holton, our Go Games Co-ordinator, and his team of coaches who ensure our young players aged 7-11 years are taught the many and varied skills required to play football and hurling. They also take responsbility for hosting Go Games fixtures on numerous occasions throughout the year, giving players the opportunity to exhibit their skills against their peers from other clubs. All of this honest endeavour continues to bear fruit for our club. The Go Games concept continues to thrive in the GAA and long may it last.
Glorious autumn………….when the leaves turn golden……….and there was plenty of gold on offer in 2018.
August opened with the U12 footballers completing the League double with a 0-24 to 0-8 defeat of Boardsmill. Just over 24 hours later, our senior hurlers were just as ruthless as they completely overpowered Dunderry in the fourth round of the SHC.
The following weekend saw our Intermediate Footballers signal their intent with a 1-19 to 0-7 win over a strongly fancied Meath Hill team in the fourth round of the IFC. This was a defining victory. Such a fantastic performance allowed supporters to dream of championship glory. Could this be our year?
Our U14 footballers suffered heartbreak with defeat in the finals of both the summer league and championship, the latter being particularly cruel as they lost by a solitary point courtesy of a last minute free from their nemesis, Moynalvey. These lads reached the final of all three domestic competitions open to them during 2018 and to walk away with nothing to show for their efforts demonstrates how cruel sport can sometimes be.
As we moved towards the end of August, our senior footballers and hurlers concluded their respective championship group stages. Coincidentally both teams scrambled to secure somewhat unconvincing draws against Drumbaragh and Blackhall Gaels respectively. While both performances gave minor cause for concern, the goal of qualification for the knock-out stages of both championships had been achieved. The flame was still burning.
The SHC quarter-final draw saw Longwood “rewarded” for topping their group by being drawn against reigning champions Kiltale who were on their own mission to secure a fifth consecutive championship. On the day, Kiltale showed the form of true champions. They dominated from the throw-in and ran out deserving winners. They would go on to complete their mission with a 10 point beating of Trim in the county final.
In any other year, Longwood would have been forgiven for hanging their heads in the wake of a heavy SHC defeat. However, with the IFC quarter-final against neighbours Trim scheduled for just seven days later, feeling sorry for themselves was not an option for our footballers. If anything, the previous week’s defeat seemed to spur the boys on. The quarter-final took place in Summerhill and it turned out to be an absolute classic. With time running out and Trim leading by three points, Longwood made one last push which resulted in Ryan Moore half-volleying the ball to the roof of the net. The ensuing extra time saw Longwood take control with further goals from Karl Ennis and Evan Coyle. A truly amazing victory and a semi-final against perennial rivals, Ballinabrackey, was now on the horizon.
The semi-final took place in Páirc Tailteann on September 16th. Once again the game ebbed and flowed. Damien Healy gave Longwood an early lead with a fantastic goal. The Bracks responded with typical defiance and looked set to reach the final as they led by two points with time running out. Longwood refused to buckle and conjured up three remarkable points from Mickey Burke, Anthony Healy and Ryan Moore to secure their place in the final. Tears flowed freely as the realisation that championship glory was now within touching distance dawned on players & supporters.
The following couple of weeks saw excitement reach fever pitch. To their eternal credit, the players and management somehow managed to insulate themselves from the surrounding buzz. The old adage “treat it like it’s just another game” is often rolled out but with history looming, it’s easier said than done.
The big day dawned and it seemed that nobody would be left in the village and its surrounds. Everybody was intent on getting to Navan.
Longwood seemed cool and calm throughout most of the game. The benefit of a reasonable breeze saw them take control and an early point from Aaron Ennis gave them a lead that they would never surrender. Be it the sublime finishing of Ryan Moore, the resilient defending of Chris Lynch, the powerful, marauding runs of Damien Healy, the visible leadership personified by Joey Stenson, Mickey Burke and Eoin Lynch to name but a few, the calculated decision-making of the management team, everything seemed to gel beautifully on the day that mattered most. All involved deserve great credit and will justifiably be immortalised in Longwood GAA history.
The captain’s victory speech was poignant and emotional. It seemed to perfectly reflect the general feeling of all those present. The subsequent homecoming and celebrations were equally memorable.
Our heroes had put Longwood firmly on the GAA map. We will never be able to thank them enough for the sheer joy they brought to our community.
It’s a testament to our senior players, the majority of whom play both football and hurling, that they could perform so consistently well in both championships (and both Leagues) week in and week out throughout the season. To alternate between codes is not as simple as it may appear, the skills required are completely different. That said, hard work and team spirit, commitment and selflessness are common to both and our players embodied these traits and many more besides throughout the year.
As the evenings shortened and thoughts turned to Christmas shopping, Longwood/Clonard’s U15 footballers provided a fitting end to a glorious season with victory in Division 3 of the League. This fine bunch of players reversed previous results with victory over Gaeil Colmcille and St Peter’s Dunboyne in the semi-final and final.
The curtain came down on the year with the announcement that our own Mickey Burke was to be awarded Meath GAA Footballer of the Year. This, coupled with the news that Ryan Moore was to be recognised as Intermediate Footballer of the Year, is a source of enormous pride to our club. Well done to both players.
Special mention to our minor Hurlers, our Junior D footballers, our LGFA teams which have made enormous strides in their initial year, our U13 footballers & hurlers all of whom performed with enormous credit during the past 12 months. It was also fantastic to see St Nicholas’ Primary School boys and girls teams reach their respective Cumann Na mBunscol finals. Further proof of the young sporting talent in our community.
Longwood GAA would like to wish all players, juvenile and adult, all members and supporters a happy and peaceful New Year. We wish everybody good health and happiness.
We have much to look forward to in the coming year, Senior Championship in both Football and Hurling for starters.
2019 has much to live up to………….if it turns out to be half as good as 2018 then we are in for a treat.
Maigh Dearmhaí abú !!