Longford faith finds its reward

Longford 2-14 Limerick 0-09
Glenn Ryan has lauded his Longford players for refusing to follow the exodus to America and sticking with a team that, until this All-Ireland qualifier victory, had failed to win a competitive game all year.

And the former Kildare star, whose five-year spell in charge may well have ended with defeat against Limerick two days ago, has also criticised players from other counties who have departed for the USA after provincial defeats.

“It’s hugely important for the team,” he said. “There’s no disguising that fact. It has to be some sort of record to have gone as long as we have gone after playing what we have played without winning a game.

“I wouldn’t put these lads up on a pedestal, but none of these fellas have f*****d off [unlike some players from] the Laoises, the Galways and Armaghs, teams that have greater, loftier ambitions and greater traditions than we have. These fellas stuck around.”

Prior to this, Longford had lost all seven of their Division 2 league games, as well as their opening championship engagement, to Wicklow. Their one success in six painful months had been a three-point defeat of UCD in January’s O’Byrne Cup.

“It wasn’t easy but they stuck around,” said Ryan. “They didn’t go away. They didn’t go off to America looking for the sugar daddy or whatever is over there and if we hadn’t won it would have been a travesty for those fellas.

“I’m not saying they were in any way perfect over the last few weeks but the fact that they were here and that they showed that respect to their team-mates and their clubs and their county, to not just drop everything at the drop of a hat and stay around, that is huge. That shouldn’t be underestimated. They should get the recognition they deserve for that because there is no fella should just drop everything and go at the first sign of things not going well and things weren’t going well for us for a long time.”

Limerick are among those counties to have waved goodbye to a handful of players as they migrated Stateside in recent months but, in every other way, their plight of late only equalled that of their hosts.

Like Longford, they had suffered loss in their opening summer appointment and that heavy defeat to Cork, allied to the injury suffered by key forward Ian Ryan, had undone much of the good work done in securing promotion from Division 4.

Yet Longford had their troubles with the loss through injury of key defender Michael Quinn as well as marksman-in-chief Brian Kavanagh who, ironically, is in the USA, albeit on a year-long sabbatical from work.

Few counties of Longford’s stature could survive such blows but, in full-forward Sean McCormack, they had the most potent player on the pitch and his eight points, three from play, were crucial.

Longford led by 0-8 to 0-4 at the interval and put the result beyond doubt in a blistering opening to the second period when Francis McGee buttressed points from McCormack and Paul Barden with their first goal.

Another three-pointer, from JJ Matthews after 47 minutes, re-emphasised the gulf and Limerick’s disastrous trip deteriorated further with the dismissals of Michael Reidy and John Riordan.

Ryan admitted to being surprised by the visitors’ torpor.

“They are a seasoned team and we were four points up against them here last year and they got an equaliser with the last kick in normal time and beat us well in extra-time, so they have been through the mill.

“You don’t often get second chances but we had a second chance and at least we are in the next round now.”

Scorers for Longford: S McCormack (0-8, five frees); JJ Matthews (1-2); F McGee (1-0); N Mulligan (0-2); J Keegan; P Barden (0-1 each).

Scorers for Limerick: S Buckley; E O’Connor (two frees) (0-3 each): I Corbett; G Collins; D O’Connor (0-1 each).

Subs for Longford: N Mulligan for Foy (49); CP Smyth for Barden (62); K Diffley for Keegan (65); a Rowan for McElvaney; S Doyle for McGee (both 66).

Subs for Limerick: D O’Connor for Lee (h-t); S Lucey for O’Brien (43); M Ready for Corbett (46); S O’Carroll for Collins (49); C Coady for Lane (66).

LONGFORD: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; B O’Farrell, P McCormack, S Mulligan; J Keegan, M Brady; B McElvaney, P Barden, P Foy; JJ Matthews, S McCormack, F McGee.

LIMERICK: B Scanlan; M O’Riordan, J McCarthy, A Lane; J Riordan, P Browne, P Ranahan; B O’Brien, J Galvin; S Lavin, T Lee, I Corbett; E O’Connor, S Buckley, G Collins.

Referee: D Gough (Meath).


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