Longwood GAA

Founded 1904

Co. Meath

Minor Footballers lose out in gripping Championship Final

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The season ended in disappointment for Longwood’s minor footballers as they lost out to a strong Ballinlough side in a hard-fought and entertaining final in Grangegodden on Bank Holiday Monday morning.

Despite the early start, a huge Longwood crowd made the journey to the outskirts of Kells, and they can be justifiably proud of the efforts of their young players.

Credit to Gaeil Colmcille – while the dressing rooms, sans lights, may require some work, the playing surface on their pitch was excellent, despite the seemingly incessant rain of recent days. The surface and the fine morning were both conducive to fast, open football and the teams did not disappoint.

Longwood were first to settle, taking an early lead following an excellent pointed free from Conor M Dixon. While this may have settled Longwood, it also seemed to poke the bear, the bear in question being Darren O’Higgins. Ballinlough’s top marksman escaped Cian Colgan’s clutches before bursting through the Longwood rear-guard and finishing to the net.

Colgan and O’Higgins would have a terrific duel for the remainder of the game. The young Longwood defender, a year younger than his opponent, gave as good as he got and can be enormously satisfied with his day’s work. Their embrace at the full-time whistle was indicative of the respect they have for each other. Giving everything to beat your opponent during the game. Shaking hands and acknowledging each other’s efforts at the end of the game. Sporting combat, just as it should be.

The goal seemed to fill the ‘Lough with confidence and they reeled off the next three points to lead 1-3 to 0-1. But this Longwood team is nothing if not resilient and were not about to press the panic button. Laoghaire Connolly kicked a good free to reduce the deficit to four points. Seconds later Ben McLoughlin’s handpass put Malachy Fisher in the clear, but the young full forward saw his shot from an acute angle go to the left and wide.

If Fisher’s confidence was dented, it certainly didn’t show. Less than two minutes later he found himself bearing down on the Ballinlough goal and this time he made no mistake with a missile to the net. The Longwood crowd roared their approval.

The ebb and flow continued with Ballinlough kicking the next three points to effectively cancel out the goal and push the lead out to four points yet again with just a couple of minutes left in the half. Amazingly this was sufficient time for Longwood to draw level. A fantastic Fionn Hannon turnover ignited a counter attack that eventually reached Malachy Fisher who finished to the net with power and precision. Laoghaire Connolly supplemented this with another well taken free to restore parity at halftime.

Halftime: Longwood 2-3 Ballinlough 1-6

Just as they had in the opening half, Longwood scored first courtesy of a Brian Stagg point.

Ballinlough asserted themselves in the third quarter. With Longwood unable to score during the next 15 minutes, the boys in red moved through the gears scoring 1-5 over the same period. This was effectively the winning of the game and it was clear that Longwood would need goals to rescue the game. While they did create a couple of half chances, they were unable to raise a green flag.

But to their lasting credit the boys did kick 4 of the next 5 points. They kept their opponent honest right to the death and will have earned the respect of a team who had demolished them in the group stages of the competition.

Full time: Longwood 2-8 Ballinlough 2-13

Longwood: Sandijs Buls, Fionn Hannon, Cian O’Sullivan, Rian Duffy, Ronan Greene, Conor Dixon, Cian Colgan, Brian Stagg (0-1), Thomas Dorran, Conor M Dixon (0-1), Laoghaire Connolly (0-4), William Phillips (0-1), Ben McLoughlin, Malachy Fisher (2-1), Adam Peacock. Subs: Jayden McCormack for Duffy, Brooklyn O’Brien for Peacock, Cian Swan for Thomas Dorran, Joseph O’Neill, Daniel Fahey, Owen Byrne.

A tough loss to take but in the cold light of day we have to admit that the better team won. We congratulate Ballinlough on their victory.

The entire Longwood team emerged from the game with great credit. Goalkeeper Sandijs Buls, surely one of the best in the county, made a couple of crucial saves. We have come to expect this from Sandijs such are the quality of his reflexes.

In defence, Fionn Hannon was outstanding throughout the game. Conor Dixon gave his customary powerhouse performance while the two Cians – O’Sullivan and Colgan – hardly put a foot wrong.

Further up the field, the half forward line of Dixon, Connolly and Phillips worked tirelessly while Malachy Fisher caused all sorts of problems for his marker.

We can be very proud of our boys. They have had an excellent year, winning the league and only losing out in the championship final. They also won all of their home games throughout the season, a 100% home record is a notable achievement.

Looking ahead, 11 of the 21 players that togged out today will return as minor footballers again next season, so there is certainly hope for the future. The U15 players that joined the panel during the season – William Phillips, Ronan Greene, Brooklyn O’Brien, Rian Duffy, Cian Swan, Joseph O’Neill, Jack McGettigan and Owen Byrne – brought a new zest and energy to the team. They all made telling contributions at various stages and will benefit enormously from the experience when they return next season.

We wish Malachy, Brian, Conor, Ben, Jayden, Thomas, Adam, Fionn, Daniel, Cian and Laoghaire all the best as they graduate to adult football and hurling next season. These boys have served Longwood’s juvenile teams with great credit over the past 10 years. They have enjoyed considerable success at U12, U13, U15 and U17 level but, more importantly, they have played football and hurling with their friends and represented their club and community with pride. They may not appreciate it now, but these are memories they will cherish in the future. We look forward to seeing them donning the white jersey in the coming years.

Maigh Dearmhaí abú! 🤍🖤🏁🏁🏁

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