Impressive victory has Longford looking forward to brighter days
It was a strict, training weekend and the players had bought into it. They were sending out a message of their own.
If the message was delivered in some style with Wednesday’s single-point win over a Dublin team backboned by players who reached back-to-back All-Ireland minor finals in 2011 and 2012 and a number who featured in last year’s All-Ireland Under- 21 win, the reality is the Longford County Board’s investment in its own underage development structures was being rewarded by players who benefited from such nurturing.
While Dublin’s development structures have been lauded, Longford have also reaped the benefits of a system that sees players taken into development squads at under-15 level with an eye on the future.
“There’s been a big effort put into underage development in the last 10 years. Our big problem is we don’t have the numbers which you’d have in counties with larger populations obviously . . . we’ve a population over 30,000 in the whole county, and the percentage working off that as regards people playing football. This particular group of players are all in college, studying decent courses, so hopefully that will help them get employment here rather than in England or America or Canada or Australia when they’re finished.
“We’d want to hold onto this bunch of players [for the future],” said Hagan. “Ten of the team are supplied from two clubs [Emmet Óg, who are senior county champions, and Fr Manning Gaels Drumlish].
“When you bring four, five or six lads from the one club, you create a kind of a club atmosphere as well. They’ve been playing together from 10 years up, and winning as well which is the important thing.”
The more immediate objective is the bid for a breakthrough Leinster Under-21 title, a championship that evaded their grasp most recently in 2011 when they lost by a point to Wexford.
As it happens, Wexford – extra-time winners over Westmeath – provide the next hurdle for Longford when they meet in the semi-final in Portlaoise on Wednesday week (March 20th). Pádraig McCormack, who was sent off late-on against Dublin for receiving two yellow cards, will be available to Longford.
The Leinster Council and Westmeath County Board are to investigate allegations that linesman Derek Fahy was targeted by stonethrowing from a section of the crowd during extra-time after Westmeath’s Kelvin Reilly was sent off.