Longwood’s U13 Hurlers went down to a strong Kiltale team in this afternoon’s League Final but they certainly did not go down without a fight.
This fine bunch of young players, the majority of whom will be eligible for U13 again next season, battled hard throughout, pushing their opponent to the pin of their collar right to the final whistle. Indeed, this relentless fighting spirit has become synonymous with this young team; a trait they demonstrated on multiple occasions throughout the competition, most memorably in their epic semi-final victory over Boardsmill.
As Kiltale had finished top of the table, they were granted home advantage for the final. While this may be somewhat unusual, it would be churlish to argue that it affected the result of the game.
The game started in bright sunshine, and Longwood started promisingly with William Phillips scoring a fine point from play. It took Kiltale nine minutes to register their opening point, but they quickly followed this with two more to take a two-point lead midway through the opening half.
Longwood responded in style; William Phillips won possession in the opposition half before weaving his way through the defence and drilling the ball to the bottom corner of the net. A brilliant goal from a fine young player. The Longwood crowd roared their approval.
Kiltale responded well and raised two more white flags to take a slender one-point lead to the interval.
The second half saw Kiltale take command, on the score board at least. Four unanswered points saw them push their lead out to five points. Longwood battled for all their worth and made their opponents work hard for every score. The back-line gave everything for the cause with Noel Gill, Dean Phillips and Ronan Greene very much to the fore. Midfielders Fionn Hanna and Conor Dixon covered every blade grass while forwards James Cully, Sean Hanlon-Upton and Rian Holton worked tirelessly throughout. But in truth every single member of the panel played their part and gave their all for the cause.
With five minutes to go, Longwood trailed by five points. A high ball into the Kiltale goalmouth caused confusion for the home team and resulted in Patrick Nicholson flicking the ball to the net. Hope, once again, for the boys in white!
Kiltale, showing what a good team they are, responded with a point followed by a somewhat fortuitous goal.
The margin was out to six points. A lesser team could have been forgiven for dropping their heads. But these boys never know when they are beaten. Again, they charged forward. A shot from Conor Dixon was batted away to apparent safety. Rian Duffy gathered the ball, turned one way and then the other before unleashing a thunderbolt to the back of the Kiltale net. Surely a contender for goal of the season – it was a goal that the great Joe Canning would have been proud of!
With time running out, Longwood pushed forward in search of an equalising goal. Alas, they were caught on the break as Kiltale scored a late goal to seal victory on a scoreline of 2-10 to 3-1.
So, it wasn’t to be for Longwood’s young stars. They gave everything in pursuit of victory. Ultimately, they lost out to an excellent team, a team who played slightly better on the day and deserved their victory. There is no shame in that.
To Jim, Enda, Damien and Mark, our amazing coaches, we say a big THANK YOU. You have instilled some fantastic values - hard work, perseverance and courage - to name but a few into these young players and the rewards will be seen in the years ahead. More importantly, it is clear for all to see that the boys simply love to play hurling. What greater compliment can we pay to our coaches?
But the players are the undoubted stars. We salute each and every one of them for the fantastic value and entertainment they have given us over the past number of weeks. In a year in which we all needed a lift, they provided it. We look forward to seeing them represent Longwood at juvenile and adult level in the years ahead.
Hold your heads up high lads, you have done your families and your club an enormous service!
Maigh Dearmhaí abú!!
Longwood: Graham O’Loughlin, Jake Lynch, Noel Gill, Ronan Greene, Rian Duffy (1-0), Dean Phillips, Fionn Hanna, Conor Dixon (Capt.), Conor Dorran, James Cully, Rian Holton, William Phillips (1-1), Sean Hanlon-Upton. Subs: Jonah Furlong, Sean Kelly, Patrick Nicholson (1-0), Sam Bacon.