A championship game in Clonard in which Longwood produced a fantastic performance, only to suffer the heartbreak of losing to a late goal. For Longwood supporters this will sound eerily familiar having suffered a similar fate against Senchalstown last year.
From the outset Longwood performed with far greater intensity than had been the case in the opening round loss to Meath Hill. Despite the concession of two early points, Longwood settled into the game courtesy of a point from play from Harry Hogan. An excellent point from Thomas Coloe and a 45 from the boot of Anthony Healy sandwiched a Clann Na nGael point; ten minutes on the clock and the sides were level at three points apiece.
For the remaining 20 minutes of the opening half, scores were much harder to come by. Longwood did take the lead on the 18th minute when Damien Healy, on one of his trademark forays into the opposition half, took a hand-pass from a teammate before splitting the posts with a beautiful left foot kick.
In first half injury time Clann Na nGael equalised with a point from play, their first score for 25 minutes. That is testament to the work rate and hunger of the Longwood team. To a man, they worked tirelessly from defence to attack. They tackled as if their lives depended on it, dispossessing their opponents on a number of occasions. While Clann Na nGael did enjoy some periods of possession, it was generally at a safe distance from goal. As soon as they approached the scoring zone they were hassled and harried from all angles with Ross Kerrigan and Anthony Healy very much to the fore.
Further out the field, Niall Mulvey and Sean Coloe were competing very well at midfield, winning lots of possession for their team and setting up a number of attacks. Clann Na nGael’s defensive wall, which often included all 14 outfield players, was difficult to penetrate but Longwood were patient, often content to play the ball over and back across the field in search of an opportunity to break the first line of defence.
Half-time: Longwood 0-04 Clann Na nGael 0-04
Longwood were first out of the blocks in the second half, Ryan Moore converting a free after some good work from Mickey Burke and Jacob Baldwin.
To their credit, the men from Athboy responded strongly with three unanswered points to wrestle back control of the game. They seemed to be getting on top when Aaron Ennis intercepted a Clann Na nGael kick-out before picking out Ryan Moore with a pass that Andres Iniesta would have been proud of. Moore took on and beat his man, and, as he bore down on goals, picked out Thomas Coloe with a deft hand pass which Coloe gratefully palmed to the back of the net. It was the young full forward’s second goal in successive games and Longwood now looked to be on the up.
Critically a little more than two minutes later they would concede the initiative back to the men in green and gold. Ironically, Longwood were on the attack when a loose hand pass went astray and allowed their opponent to counter. Clann Na nGael’s young team specialise in this very scenario and they broke upfield with pace, ultimately raising a green flag after an excellent finish from one of their midfielders.
Amazingly the next score would be yet another goal. This time the three pointer went to the Men from The Wood. A high, lobbing, dropping ball was fetched by the ever-industrious Niall Mulvey on the edge of the large parallelogram. Longwood’s young midfielder, surely a man to build a team around for the future, shrugged off his marker before shooting low and hard. While the goalkeeper saved the initial shot, he could not hold onto the ball. The rebound went straight back to Mulvey who gobbled it up before burying the ball in the back of the net.
Longwood maintained their one-point lead to the second half drinks break.
After 24 minutes the lead was pushed out to two points thanks to a Mickey Burke free. Clann Na nGael responded with a pair of quick-fire points to bring the teams level with just four minutes remaining.
Sean Coloe had seen enough. He won possession inside the opposition’s half before bulldozing his way towards goal, seemingly carrying man and ball with him before eventually being fouled on the 20-metre line. Mickey Burke converted the ensuing free kick to give Longwood the slenderest of leads.
Not long after Harry Hogan was given a second yellow card for pulling back an opponent as Clann Na nGael tried to work a counterattack. It was tough luck on Hogan who had been cynically dragged down a few minutes earlier when seemingly through on goal.
Even so, Longwood were not prepared to yield. They broke up field and fashioned an opportunity which Ryan Moore was happy to avail of, kicking a beautiful point off his left.
Two points clear’ Longwood’s tenacious defending looked as though it would see out the game. As we moved into the 35th minute, Longwood conceded a free just inside the 45-metre line. For some reason, presumably a word of dissent, the referee moved the ball forward close to the 20-metre line. Clann Na nGael, knowing a point was of little use, took a short free kick to an unmarked forward whose shot was deflected into the roof of the net.
Delight for Clann Na nGael.
Utter dejection for Longwood.
Seconds later the referee blew the final whistle.
This defeat was a bitter pill for Longwood to swallow. They played so well for so long and few could argue that they deserved to win the game. However, you don’t always get what you deserve, and this game was proof of that.
Where exactly the 5 minutes of injury time came from, is hard to know. That said, Longwood are experienced enough to know that the game is never over until the final whistle and they will be bitterly disappointed to concede such a late goal.
For Longwood’s footballers, the hunt for silverware is over for another year.
We now have an important game against our old friends from Ballinlough in two weeks’ time. A repeat of the 2018 IFC final, this year’s version will see both teams battling to avoid finishing bottom of Group E. High stakes indeed.
Final Score: Longwood 2-8 Clann Na nGael 2-9
Longwood: Kevin Maguire, Ross Kerrigan, Damien Healy (0-1), Bob Maguire, Fearghal O’Hare, Anthony Healy (0-1), Mickey Burke (0-2), Niall Mulvey (1-0), Sean Coloe, Adam O’Brien, Ryan Moore (0-2), Jacob Baldwin, Aaron Ennis, Thomas Coloe (1-1), Harry Hogan (0-1). Subs: Gavin Griffin for Adam O’Brien, Cathal Campbell for Jacob Baldwin.