SHC Group A – Round 4: Longwood 3-14 Ratoath 1-17
Longwood produced a performance jam-packed with courage and sheer bloody-mindedness to overcome a fancied Ratoath team in Dunshaughlin on Saturday evening.
With 12 of the starting line up having suffered a heavy defeat to Moynalvey in the Senior Football Championship just four days earlier, the team could have been forgiven for feeling a little sorry for themselves. Not a bit of it! They stuck to the task, carried out their instructions to the letter and ultimately secured 2 crucial points that guarantees them a place in the knock-out stages of the championship. Whether that be a quarter-final or a semi-final will be decided in the final round of group games.
A strong breeze, which appeared to favour Longwood in the opening half, certainly had an impact on the game. After an early exchange of frees, Ratoath tagged on a couple of points from play to lead 0-3 to 0-1 after the opening nine minutes. Longwood responded well, three frees from Anthony Healy sandwiched a point apiece from midfielders Sean Coloe and Ryan Moore to turn a two point deficit into a three point lead.
Ratoath, to their credit, responded strongly with a run of three successive points restoring parity on the scoreboard. They hit the front in the twenty seventh minute, raising a green flag after Longwood coughed up possession in their own half. Anthony Healy scored his sixth point of the opening half just before half-time to keep Longwood within touching distance at the interval.
Half-time: Longwood 0-8 Ratoath 1-8
Within a minute of the restart, Longwood had reduced the deficit courtesy of yet another Anthony Healy free. It’s easy for us to take these scores for granted, but Anto spends countless hours practicing his art and we get to see the fruits of his labour on match day.
A quick exchange of points was followed by Longwood’s opening goal. When a dropping ball broke on the edge of the square, Jim Dorran was quickest to react and his first time shot flew past the keeper to give Longwood the lead.
Again Ratoath responded with intent; three points on the trot giving them a two point lead. Another Healy free reduced the margin to the minimum. Ratoath’s defence conceded yet another free with 13 minutes left on the clock; as Anthony Healy crouched over the ball, it seemed to all onlookers that a levelling point would ensue but somehow the flight of the ball deceived the keeper and it ended up in the back of the net. Whether it was intentional or not, Longwood gleefully accepted the three points to move two clear.
The boys in blue and gold responded with a brace of points to tie the game. Anthony Healy clipped over another pair of points, this time from play, to edge Longwood clear. Yet again, Ratoath responded with successive points bringing the sides level with two minutes on the clock.
As the clock ticked past the thirty minute mark, Sean Coloe collected a hand pass about 70 metres from goal. In an instant Coloe launched the ball, seemingly into orbit, and it cut through the wind before dropping obediently over the cross bar. If ever there was a score fit to win a game, surely this was it. Ratoath disagreed and responded with yet another point.
Two minutes into injury time, both sides would likely have settled for a draw but Longwood worked the ball down the field and ultimately into the hands of Ryan Moore, some 20 metres out from the Ratoath goal. Given the circumstances, nobody would have argued if Moore had tapped the ball over the bar. But the Longwood man backed himself and went for the jugular, driving a low shot to the back of the net. This proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Shortly afterwards the referee blew the full-time whistle and the Longwood crowd, small though it was due to a clash with the Blessing of the Graves in the village, acknowledged the effort expended by their heroes.
Huge credit is due to the players. With a number of key players missing due to injury and a couple of others playing despite being hampered by injury, the character and heart displayed by each and every member of the panel is nothing short of inspirational.
The management team also deserve enormous credit, preparing the panel to give of their best in each round of the championship to date.
Another titanic struggle with Dunboyne awaits in Round 5.
Longwood: Mick Healy, Enda Dixon, Niall Mulvey, Chris Lynch, Ross Kerrigan, Mickey Burke, Joey Stenson, Ryan Moore (1-1), Sean Coloe (0-2), Coran Byrne, Karl Ennis, Anthony Healy (1-11), Jim Dorran (1-0), Damien Healy, Evan Coyle. Subs Johnny Furey for Coyle