Sport can be cruel. You do not always get what you deserve. The better team does not always win. Whatever cliché you choose to describe it, Sunday’s heart-breaking defeat was an extremely bitter pill to swallow for Longwood’s players, coaches and supporters.
For 58 minutes, it looked as though Longwood would surpass last year’s championship heroics as they held a lead, albeit a slender one, against a much more experienced Senchalstown team.
In truth, Longwood were the better team for the vast majority of this contest. They held their opponent scoreless for the opening 18 minutes of the opening half and repeated the feat for the opening 20 minutes of the second half. The defence were in command for these periods; Chris Lynch and Mickey Burke, to name but two, conspicuous with their work rate and industry.
The much-vaunted Sheridan brothers were shackled superbly by Niall Mulvey and Damien Healy. The game plan devised by Longwood’s management team was working a treat. Joey Stenson, nominally selected as wing forward, was mopping up lots of ball as an extra defender.
Then just as we dared to dream of another season in the senior football ranks, the sporting Gods pulled the rug out from under us. A late goal, which had looked unlikely for the duration of the game, arrived to cruelly send our heroes back to the intermediate grade for 2020.
Senchalstown played with the benefit of the prevailing wind for the opening half. They appeared nervous and registered five wides in the opening six minutes. Longwood were much more efficient in front of the posts and had established a three point lead after 17 minutes; a brace of Ryan Moore points augmented by a Mickey Burke free. Indeed, the lead could have been greater as Moore flashed a low shot just wide of the post after being put through on goal by Niall Mulvey.
Senchalstown finally settled into the game and dominated the scoring for the remainder of the half, taking a three-point lead to the dressing rooms at the break.
Half-time: Longwood 0-4 Senchalstown 0-7
Longwood, with the breeze at their backs, bounced out of the traps on the resumption and had drawn level within five minutes. A pair of frees from Ryan Moore and Anthony Healy sandwiched an excellent point from play from Thomas Coloe.
The Longwood support were becoming justifiably excited as the boys exerted their will on the game – three more points from Moore and Healy pushing them into a three point lead at the midpoint of the second half.
Senchalstown finally broke their second half duck after 20 minutes with a point from a 45. However, Longwood remained calm and another Mickey Burke free restored a three-point advantage with just five minutes left on the clock.
Senchalstown popped over two quick points to reduce the margin to just a single point. The second of these points was most fortuitous when a shot for a point hit the post but rebounded directly to the kicker who could barely believe his luck, accepting this unexpected gift and raising a white flag. On another day, the ball would have fallen harmlessly wide having rebounded off the post. Sadly, not today.
Worse was to follow when little more than a minute later, Senchalstown broke through the white wall of Longwood’s backline for what seemed like the only time in the game before finishing the ball to the net. It was the ultimate sucker punch.
To their credit, Longwood remained composed and managed to create two further scoring opportunities but unfortunately, both went narrowly wide. Senchalstown added an insurance point and shortly afterwards the final whistle brought the contest to an end.
Longwood’s heroes fell to their knees in a combination of disappointment and disbelief. Their opponents, although victorious seemed equally shell-shocked. They had evaded relegation at the very end of the game. That they were second best for most of the contest mattered little. The scoreboard is the only statistic that matters and at the end it read: Senchalstown 1-11 Longwood 0-11
Longwood: Kevin Maguire, Chris Lynch, Damien Healy, Ross Kerrigan, Karl Ennis, Niall Mulvey, Mickey Burke (0-2), Sean Coloe, Eoin Lynch, Joey Stenson, Ryan Moore (0-5), Jacob Baldwin, Thomas Coloe (0-1), Anthony Healy (0-3), David Rowley. Subs: Sean Sheridan for Rowley, Coran Byrne for Baldwin.
And so, an historic 2019 season draws to a close for our senior players. While Sunday will leave us with a sense of disappointment, we must keep our eye on the bigger picture.
For a club of our size to be able to compete at senior level in both football and hurling is something to be enormously proud of. Our senior hurlers performed incredibly well throughout the championship, only falling at the penultimate hurdle. We can only hope that next year they can go at least one step further.
Our senior footballers played well for periods in most of their games. They could well have beaten both Rathkenny and Senchalstown. Admittedly they suffered heavy defeats to Summerhill and Ratoath but a number of more experienced teams have suffered similar fates. In fact, there is every chance that Summerhill and Ratoath will meet in the SFC final in a couple of weeks.
Our players and management team deserve enormous credit. Week in and week out, they have represented themselves, their families and their club with distinction. More importantly, they have inspired the next generation of young footballers and hurlers in Longwood and shown them that, with proper dedication and application, nothing is impossible.
Thanks for an amazing year lads!
Maigh Dearmhaí abú!