Longford boss Padraic Davis has challenged those who question the need for pre-season competitions in an already crowded GAA calendar.
He and his now-fellow selectors, Donal Ledwith and Paul Barden, played in Longford’s O’Byrne Cup final win over Westmeath in Mullingar back in 2000.
Fast forward to last Saturday, and the trio stood on the line to watched their charges bridge that two-decade gap thanks to a powerful second-half performance which completely overwhelmed Offaly at O’Connor Park.
“Kildare, Meath, and Dublin lead the way in Leinster, and they also lead the way in O’Byrne Cups,” he said. “So is the O’Byrne Cup important to the Westmeaths, Offalys and Longfords? Yes it is.
“Is it more important than the National League? Of course not, but still both of us came here today, played to win, and we’re lucky to have come out on top.”
Offaly looked the form team in the early stages as they moved 0-4 to 0-1 clear, but a goal from Mickey Quinn had Longford level, and that strike proved a launchpad for the visitors. Black cards for to Shane Nally and Anton Sullivan of Offaly hurt the hosts for a spell, though it seemed they had weathered the storm when Sullivan returned to the field to kick his side ahead (0-8 to 1-4) early in the second half.
Instead Longford found another gear, outscoring Offaly 0-8 to 0-3 in the final quarter, with substitute Darragh Doherty, Darren Gallagher, and Quinn all impressive.
Offaly manager John Maughan didn’t try to hide his annoyance at his team’s display.
“We’re very disappointed, not with losing the O’Byrne Cup final, but in the manner in which we did,” said the Mayo native, who now has to turn the team’s focus on their trip to Páirc Uí Chaoimh next Saturday night for their Division Three clash with Cork.
“Our play was very poor, it was our worst performance in the competition and we held it for the final, so we’re extremely disappointed.
“Cork are a Super 8 team, they’ve a lot of talent and have had underage success. They’ll be formidable, away from home is a tough assignment. But we won’t beat ourselves before we go down. We’ll go down in a positive frame of mind and give it our best shot.”
Scorers for Longford: M Quinn (1-1), D Reynolds, R Brady (2f), O Kenny, D Gallagher (1f), D Doherty (0-2 each), P Lynn 0-1.
Scorers for Offaly: B Allen 0-5 (0-2f), A Sullivan 0-3, S Horan 0-2, A Leavy 0-1.
LONGFORD: P Collum; P Fox, A Farrell, B O’Farrell; I O’Sullivan, G Rogers, CP Smyth; D Gallagher, K Diffley; D Reynolds, D Mimnagh, M Quinn; R Brady, O Kenny, J Hagan.
Subs: P Lynn for O’Sullivan (half time), D Doherty for Diffley (44), L Connerton for Reynolds (67), A McGuire (Carrickedmond) for Brady (70+1).
OFFALY: P Dunican; D Dempsey, E Rigney, N Darby; C Donohue, S Nally, J Hayes; C Mangan, M Brazil; E Carroll, C McNamee, S Horan; A Sullivan, B Allen, R McNamee.
Subs: D Hogan for Nally (half time), C Johnson for C McNamee (44), A Leavy for Brazil (51), C Donnelly (Bracknagh) for Donohue (54), C Farrell (Edenderry) for R McNamee (60).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois).