Impressive victory has Longford looking forward to brighter days
Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny (number 15) misses with a free kick in injury time which would have levelled the Leinster Under-21 football quarter final against Longford at Parnell Park on Wednesday. photograph: inpho
Leinster Under-21 FC: Once in a while, very occasionally, a minnow gets to take a chunk out of a bigger fish. It happened in Parnell Park on Wednesday night and, yesterday, the wisecracks about the need to split Longford into two were doing the rounds.
More seriously, though, those involved in Longford’s win in the Leinster Under-21 championship over defending provincial and All-Ireland champions Dublin were all for keeping feet on the ground and heads out of the clouds.
Longford is officially the county with the second smallest population in the country, some 39,000 according to the 2011 census. Yesterday, the mood in the county was, according to Gerry Hagan, the county board PRO, one of “disbelief”.
He remarked: “There’s a lot of people who didn’t travel who were left regretting they didn’t go . . . . but it’s still only a quarter-final, so we can’t be getting carried away.”
Those who stayed away might have regretted not being there in the flesh for the taking down of the Dubs. Yet underpinning the point that Eugene McCormack’s team travelled down the M4 with some belief of their own was the fact there were up to three times more Longford supporters than home supporters at the Donnycarney venue.
“There’s a lot thought of this team [even before the win]. Outside of Longford, they wouldn’t have been known. But we’ve a very honest bunch of players,” said Hagan.
As manager McCormack said of his charges after their victory, “They stood firm, toe-to-toe [with Dublin], and were not overawed. These players are fantastic, they worked their socks off . . .. but there were no cups handed out.”
Honest and talented. Three years ago, this same bunch of players came back through the back door to win the Leinster minor championship title. In the first round, they were on the wrong side of a 23-point hammering from Offaly but regrouped and took the provincial silverware.
Three years on, the same group – backboned by players from neighbouring clubs Emmet Óg and Drumlish – have shown maturity to go with that promise.
The story is told of how the squad were brought to Breaffy for a training weekend a few weeks back. When the players were given the option of breaking away for some social time, they held a team meeting and within five minutes had returned to the management to request a few decks of playing cards as their social outlet. There would be no break-outs to local hostelries.