Saturday 22 October 2016

Longford's upset timely reminder of Leinster fare from rare auld times

Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30

Dublin and Longford players shake hands after the game. Picture credit: Dean Cullen / Sportsfile
Dublin and Longford players shake hands after the game. Picture credit: Dean Cullen / Sportsfile

The problem about all these pre-season football games is that it is easy not to pay much attention to the results - if it suits your cause to do so. Understrength teams, students playing for the colleges, cute older players still 'taking a rest', 'we are only starting to train' etc etc - any or all of these can be used to gloss over bad results.

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Dublin footballers will have no problem washing away yesterday's heavy defeat by Longford in Pearse Park out of their system and of course we are not privvy to their schedule.

They could very well have had a hard training session in recent days, but I still doubt if everybody in the enlarged Dublin camp will be foolish to dismiss the result completely.

The loss in itself was not great for Dublin who probably would have liked to win everything available to them in 2016, including the O'Byrne Cup, but more importantly was the demeanour of the players on duty, about half of whom were first-team regulars in the past 12 months.

Many of the Dublin players gave the impression that this match was a chore that they should not have to be undertaking on a damp, cold and miserable day in a stadium that looked surreal with the apparently excellent stand closed down and the entire 4,000 odd crowd all standing on the terraces.

Their attitude was indicated by the testy nature of many of the exchanges and three Dublin defenders got yellow cards as the exchanges became fractious at times as Longford's supremacy continued to strangle the best efforts of Dublin to exert their undoubted quality.

It was a war of attrition partially dictated by the conditions but there was no doubting Longford's achievement in taking this game to their famous opponents and forgetting the debacle of last summer when Dublin beat Longford by 27 points in Croke Park.

Every Longford player rose to heights not seen for a long time in Pearse Park or anywhere else and must give their new manager Denis Connerton a huge lift as they head into Division 3 and of course an O'Byrne Cup final against Meath next weekend.

Nine different players scored for Longford, proving that there was no element of a fluke result and there was one outstanding score just before half-time from a free over 55 metres out by 'returned exile' for the county team Robbie Smith.

Fittingly, the goal that buried Dublin came from one of the youngest players, Liam Connerton, a son of the manager who had just come on as a sub.

There is no mystery about how Longford won; they played as many as 12 players in their own half of the field whenever Dublin crossed the halfway line and this frustrated a disjointed set of Dublin players so that they never played with any sense of combination or rhythm.

But then Longford were also very attack-conscious which does not normally happen in the set-up they had yesterday and they went on the counter-attack, often by using the long ball, very effectively.


Thirteen scores and about ten wides shows that they had more than just a packed defence and bearing in mind how often Dublin at their best have had problems with this sort of opponents' game plan this game may well get some further study from the Dublin brains trust.

The couple of thousand Dublin fans at the game became extremely disillusioned as the match wore on and were not slow to express their frustration at the dismal scoring efforts. So overall we could say that this game had a 'sobering' effect on the Dublin camp on and off the field.

The result will not have any bearing on their Leinster or All-Ireland aspirations yet for Longford this was a day to recapture hope after what was a flagging inter-county scene in 2015.

The two regular troubadours who entertain the fans on their way to the Hogan Stand on big match days made a rare visit to Pearse Park yesterday but the crowds kept their hands in their pockets this time which prompted one of the balladeers to remark out loud: "We can't earn any money in a graveyard."

And on this occasion it was indeed a graveyard for the Dublin players on duty yesterday.

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