All-Ireland champions beaten as Longford hit the headlines

All-Ireland champions beaten as Longford hit the headlines
By Cóilín Duffy

Interesting times already in the Senior GAA World, and it’s not even the end of January

It’s early season, and teams are starting to find form in the GAA World, but the form book which would have suggested a Meath- Dublin Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup decider was thrown out the window on Sunday, as Longford earned their place against the Royals, with a convincing 1-12 to 0-9 victory over Dublin in Senior competition for the first time since 2000.

Interestingly, It was 16 years ago to the day last Friday since Longford last beat Dublin with a 0-20 to 1-16 victory in the O’Byrne Cup.

Longford went on to beat Westmeath in Mullingar in the decider that year, the O’Farrell County’s last winning appearance in an O’Byrne Cup final. They subsequently lost the 2008 final.
Longford manager Denis Connerton was delighted with the win, but the victory had added personal significance with his son Liam slotting past twice All-Ireland winning captain Stephen Cluxton in the 64th minute for the games only goal, as Longford outscored Dublin by 1-3 to 0-1 in the final 10 minutes.
We’re not getting too carried away, these are bonus matches for us and we’ve said that all along,” said 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.”

While given the time of year, Dublin were understandably in experimental mode, they fielded seven players who started last September’s All-Ireland final win over Kerry; Cluxton, Jonny Cooper, Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, Denis Bastick, Dean Rock and Paddy Andrews.

Revenge

In a year where Dublin will journey outside of Croke Park for a Championship match for the first time since Longford came close to beating them on June 4th 2006, there was a bit of revenge for that particular fixture all those years ago.

A draw, a comfortable win and a slender win had been Dublin’s lot in the 2016 O’Byrne Cup prior to Sunday’s game, so really was a loss to Longford as big a shock as envisaged? Speaking on Monday to the Irish World at a press event for Dublin GAA sponsors AIG, Dublin defender Jonny Cooper gave his response to that particular question.

All-Ireland champions beaten as Longford hit the headlines

“All credit goes to Longford in this case. Very much they stuck it to this Dublin team and reaped the rewards at the end,” he said. “I don’t know what people are saying in terms of media and outside perception, because that’s not something in any way feeds into our system, but what I would say is credit does go to Longford, but ourselves also as a playing group in the Dublin environment we have to look at what happened yesterday.

“Certainly that’s not going to be good enough in any way going into the League campaign. “I don’t think we lacked in desire or effort. I just think we fell down on the basic skills of the game that we didn’t execute well and obviously they scored more than us which is an unfortunate thing.

“From a defensive point of view we had a couple of areas of concern – giving away needless frees etc and I’m sure the offensive guys have various things that they didn’t execute as we would normally like to do.

“I think the effort was there, but that we just fell down in the area of basic skills from ourselves.” Likewise Offaly drew some acclaim for beating Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup on Sunday – a return for the Faithful hurlers to the hallowed turf of St. Brendan’s Park for the first time in nine years – the venue which held the first ever All-Ireland Senior Hurling final.

As they had done in their midweek loss to DIT in the competition, an Eddie Brennan managed Kilkenny side once again fielded a team that included none of last year’s All-Ireland final winning line-up.

Interesting times already in the Senior GAA World, and it’s not even the end of January.

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