O’Byrne Cup - Longford 1-12 Dublin 0-9: In glorious sunshine or January’s incessant rain, Longford’s Pearse Park continues to be a frustrating venue for Dublin to visit.
It’s a decade now since Dublin last set foot outside of Croke Park in the Championship and on a toasting hot afternoon they famously nicked a narrow win over hosts Longford in 2006.
On their first visit back, the sun never once broke through and it rained most of the afternoon but the outcome was similarly chastening.
Liam Connerton’s goal six minutes from time sealed victory for Longford who progress instead of the holders and All-Ireland champions to face Meath in next weekend’s Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup final.
It was a family affair as just weeks into Denis Connerton’s second stint as Longford manager, his son, Liam, provided the inspiration with that crucial goal.
Longford haven’t claimed much silverware at senior level, and their last O’Byrne Cup success was in 2000, so the victory was quite significant.
“We’re not getting too carried away, these are bonus matches for us and we’ve said that all along,” said boss Connerton.
“The national league is where people will ultimately judge us. We’re still a Division 4 team because we haven’t actually played in Division 3 yet so we know we can’t afford to get carried away.
“We’ve an awful lot of hard work still to do and today, well, how much the competition means to Dublin I don’t know. They only know that themselves.
“But we worked very hard and things went for us today and we got the run of the ball and that was very important to us. So very happy with the result, very happy with the performance and, for us, the performance is what it’s all about really.”
Longford looked comfortable and composed in possession despite the drab conditions and, save for a two-minute spell in the first-half, they led for the entire game.
Dublin were in experimental mode but still fielded seven players who started last September’s All-Ireland final win over Kerry; Stephen Cluxton, Jonny Cooper, Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, Denis Bastick, Dean Rock and Paddy Andrews.
Most concerning for Dublin may be that when the game was there to be won, there was just a point in it with 10 minutes remaining, Longford kicked decisively clear with 1-3 to Dublin’s 0-1.
“When there was a point in it, we had two opportunities to draw the game but we didn’t take them and they went down the field and pushed on,” said Gavin. “Defensively, they played very well but all over the park they won their battles really.
“It’s two weeks now for us, and two clear weeks that are uninterrupted, to prepare for the opening round of the league and that time is worth its weight in gold for us. We will use it very well.
“We won the O’Byrne Cup last year and went down to Cork and Páirc Uí Rinn and lost the opening round of the league. So this doesn’t have any impact on the league.”
Gavin confirmed that Cluxton, who played his first game of 2016 yesterday, replacing Michael Savage, will remain as Dublin captain. Diarmuid Connolly is also back in full training and should feature against Kerry though Gavin also said he will give ‘some players’, including Paul Flynn, an extended break.
The manager has fielded 31 different players in total over four O’Byrne Cup games and Longford looked the more fluent and coherent side as they moved 0-7 to 0-4 ahead at half-time.
Dublin raised their game briefly in the third quarter in front of around 1,500 but never got back to level terms.
Scorers for Longford:
L Connerton (1-0), R Smyth (3 frees) and F McGee (1 free) (0-3 each), M Hughes, B Farrell, J McGivney, D Gallagher, P McKeon and B McKeon (1 free) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin:
D Rock (two frees, 0-3), C Reddin (0-2), D Daly, P Andrews, T Brady and C Costello (0-1).
P Collum; F Battrim, B Gilleran, CP Smyth; A Dalton, D Brady, D Masterson; M Brady, B Farrell; B McKeon, J McGivney, D Gallagher; R Smyth, F McGee, M Hughes.
P McKeon for Hughes (46), D McElligott for Farrell (54), L Connerton for Smyth (60), C Shields for P McKeon (67, BC), P McGee for F McGee (69).
S Cluxton; J Cooper, J Curley, P McMahon; J McCarthy, J Small, D Daly; C Reddin, D Bastick; T Brady, D Rock, S Carthy; C Costello, P Andrews, C O’Callaghan.
N Scully for Bastick (41), P Ryan for O’Callaghan (50), C Mullally for Carthy (61), M Deegan for Andrews (66).
J Hickey (Carlow).
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