SFC Group B - Round 2: Longwood 2-9 Rathkenny 1-14
Words do not come easy when trying to paint a picture of this match. But it's safe to say that all Longwood people - players, management and supporters - were absolutely gutted as they departed St Loman's Park, Trim on Saturday evening.
While the disappointment of an opening round defeat to Ratoath was tempered by the fact that our team had made history by taking their place at the top table of Meath's premier football competition, this agonising defeat to Rathkenny was infinitely more difficult to stomach given that Longwood had been the better team for the majority of the game.
The game was played in sweltering heat, evoking memories of last year's amazing summer and it is credit to the fitness of both teams that they could serve up such an enthralling contest given the energy-sapping conditions.
The opening minutes didn't bode well as Rathkenny grabbed the initiative but three wides from play meant they had nothing to show for their early period of dominance. After four minutes, a long ball into the Longwood full forward line saw Sean Coloe seize possession, take on and beat his man before unleashing a low shot that thundered back off the base of the goalpost. A major reprieve for Rathkenny but it was to prove to be only temporary as two minutes later Coloe again beat his man and went for goal, this time his shot was parried by the keeper only for younger brother Thomas to recover the loose ball before dispatching it to the net. Longwood were a goal up and had settled into the game.
Rathkenny responded with three points from scorer in chief, Keith Curtis, who would prove to be a thorn in our side for the hour.
The teams exchanged points before a fine point from play from Mickey Burke pushed our advantage out to two points. Longwood were controlling the game; their possession game dictating the pace and working the Rathkenny defence to the maximum, an ideal tactic in the searing heat.
With Keith Curtis continuing to cause headaches Rathkenny were able to stay within touching distance, indeed a quick flurry of three pointed frees within 4 minutes brought them level. Longwood remained composed and worked another opportunity which saw Thomas Coloe once again finish to the net. Curtis exchanged points with Aaron Ennis before the referee brought the first half to an end.
Half time: Longwood 2-4 Rathkenny 0-7
The second half opened with a Rathkenny point from play. Longwood responded immediately with the point of the game, Sean Coloe gathering possession near the sideline before side-stepping his marker and sending a booming kick between the posts.
Seven minutes into the second half, Longwood fashioned yet another goal chance, moving the ball swiftly through the hands before it reached Niall Mulvey, who had ghosted in past the last line of defence. The young midfielder's shot was on target but the keeper did well to deflect it on to the crossbar, the woodwork coming to Rathkenny's rescue for the second time. Minutes later Aaron Ennis had a goalbound shot blocked as Rathkenny's defence creaked under increasing pressure.
With 15 minutes to go, Joey Stenson charged forward to join the attack and kicked an inspirational point. The lead was now four points and Longwood looked set for victory.
Alas, it was not to be as Rathkenny enjoyed their best period, registering 1-2 in a four minute spell, the goal a fine effort from centre forward Jack Gore.
Try as they might, Longwood could not find the equalizing point, the very least that their hard work deserved.
So the game ended in heartbreak for this fine group of players. Understandably, they looked utterly dejected as they left the field. Words of comfort from supporters barely registered. To work so hard, to implement a game plan so effectively surely merited a more tangible reward.
But we must look forward. There is still a lot of football to be played in Championship 2019. Longwood demonstrated beyond all doubt that they are more than capable of mixing it at senior level.
There were many fine individual performances; Damien Healy delivered a towering performance from full back, his trademark bursts up the field causing countless problems for the opposition. Eoin Lynch's return from injury strengthened the team greatly as he provided a level of calmness and composure under pressure, setting up numerous attacks with some astute passes. Up front, the Coloe brothers, Sean and Thomas, in addition to Aaron Ennis gave the Rathkenny defence a torrid afternoon chalking up 2-6 between them.
But in truth, as always, this was a strong team performance from the Longwood boys. They played well, gave every ounce of energy for the cause and but for spurning a couple of opportunities would've run out deserving winners. Rathkenny's greater level of experience of senior football was also a factor and undoubtedly helped them over the finishing line.
Next up for Longwood is a joust with Moynalvey in Round 3. The date for that fixture will be subject to Meath's involvement in the Leinster championship.
Longwood: Gary Heneghan, Ross Kerrigan, Damien Healy, Coran Byrne, Vinny Byrne, Joey Stenson (0-1), Karl Ennis, Niall Mulvey, Eoin Lynch, Ryan Moore, Mickey Burke (0-1), Thomas Coloe (2-0), Aaron Ennis (0-5), Anthony Healy (0-1), Sean Coloe (0-1). Subs: Evan Coyle for Thomas Coloe.