Bobby O'Rourke breaks forward with the ball with a Kildare man left floundering. Photo by Joe Duffy
You can't teach an old dog new tricks and you certainly can't teach the Leitrim Longford Masters team how to pull a game out of the fire as they snatched victory last Saturday in The Downs GAA Club in Westmeath.
Up against a Kildare team who had missed two frees and looked the more likely to win, Leitrim Longford took their fate in their own hands with Enda McCann scoring an absolute wonder point from the corner to win a competitive and always entertaining All-Ireland Plate Final.
With a succession of well known Leitrim faces sprinkled throughout the team, many still playing for their club's first strings, Leitrim Longford knew how to grab this game when it was in the melting pot and that the difference.
They may be long past their best but nobody should doubt the commitment and enthusiasm of this Masters team and an outbreak of pushing and shoving at the end showed just how much it meant to both teams, competing once again for All-Ireland glory.
Leitrim Longford’s first foray into the competition as a joint venture was definitely embraced by both counties and while the pace mightn’t be as fast as it once was, the brains were still working sharply.
LL’s victory was built on the twin engines that were Gerry Carberry & Andrew McManus, the pair showing pace and endurance that much younger players would envy and the fact that most of the scores involved those two players shows their impact.
Fintan McBrien had a huge impact too as his tally of 1-5 illustrates, his tally of 1-3 from placed balls compared to the two frees Kildare managed to convert hugely important while Sean Corr, Enda McCann, Noel Reynolds, Bobby O’Rourke all had major contributions in what was a very enjoyable encounter.
The game started in a welter of excitement as Leitrim’s Andrew McManus was fouled as he was about to score and Fintan McBrien coolly sent the ball to the Kildare net. Kildare’s response was impressive with Carl McCrane and Alan Smullen both pointing within three minutes.
LL keeper Francis Noonan made a good save to deny Enda McCann a goal after he was put clear through while Colm Maguire had a goal chance blocked on the line by the keeper on eight minutes.
The impressive Gerry Carberry swapped points with Kildare’s Dermot Moore but Kildare vaulted into the lead in controversial circumstances as they blasted a quick free to the LL net, captain Carberry earning a yellow card for his protests.
John Mooney for Kildare and Carberry, after a great run, were on target but LL were missing opportunities before a McBrien free and score from play saw only an Aidan Leonard point in response.
Carberry then tied the scores with a good point before Leonard put Kildare back in front. But Carrigallen’s J.P. McManus scored a good point just before the halftime break to tie the scores once.
Unfortunately, an injury time score from John Reilly gave Kildare a narrow 1-7 to 1-6 halftime lead but that lead was wiped out after the break when LL really took control of the contest. A McBrien free tied the scores before good work from Carberry and Bobby O’Rourke ended with an Andrew McManus point.
McBrien would add a free as LL led by two point after 37 minutes but Kildare quickly regained parity with points from McGrane and Moore, the second a soft free on 12 minutes. And Moore put the Lilywhites back in front with a great effort seconds later.
McBrien twice dodged defenders on 15 minutes to tie the scores once more as the excitement was growing on the sidelines but Kildare edged back in front with a Moore point.
LL were finishing strongly and a block on a Carberry shot and a wide from O’Rourke left Leitrim Longford on edge but a great run and a brilliant finish down the left wing from Longford’s Enda McCann tied the scores.
McCann had a shot come off the post but it was Kildare who were now missing chances as they missed two frees while the tension was obviously getting to the players with a black card for Kildare’s John Mooney and a second yellow for captain Carberry after an outbreak of pushing and shoving.
With the game in added time, up stepped Enda McCann with another massive score on the run from the left wing to put LL in front. Kildare tried to engineer one last chance for the draw but Dermot Moore shot wide to start Leitrim Longford celebrations.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Main Man: Andrew McManus and Gerry Carberry were both exceptional, Fintan McBrien led the line well and top scored. Bobby O'Rourke, J.P. McManus, Olly Maguire all made important contributions while Colm Maguire, Michael Lynch, Dermot McMorrow, John Casey & Darragh Barden all saw action for the winners. Sean Corr and Enda McCann stood out from the Longford side.
Talking Point: A great social outlet for the older footballers, the fact that so many of the Leitrim players lined out for their first teams this year is nevertheless a very worrying fact for the future.
Turning Point: No one turning point in particular although Enda McCann's two late points were huge game changers. A couple of missed Kildare frees were also crucial.
Ref Watch: Jason McAndrew from Monaghan was maybe a little lenient on some challenges but did a good job throughout the game.
Highlight: The obvious joy these footballers got out of this game and the fact that the competitive fires still burn bright is heartwarming to any GAA fan.
Lowlight: Competitive fire is one thing, an outbreak of handbags at the end should have been avoided by two sets of players who, we are safe to say, are old enough to know much better!
TEAMS & SCORERS
Scorers: Fintan McBrien 1-5, 1 pen, 3f; Gerry Carberry 0-3; Enda McCann 0-2; Andrew McManus & J.P. McManus 0-1 each
Team: Francis Noonan, Dermot McMorrow, Ollie Plunkett, Sean Corr, Bobby O’Rourke, John Coyle, Emmett Kenny, Ollie Maguire, Noel Reynolds, Gerry Carberry, Mick Flynn, Andrew McManus, Declan Smith, Fintan McBrien, John Conlon. Subs: Colm Maguire, Enda McCann, J.P. McManus, Michael Lynch, Jimmy Kiernan, John Casey, Michael Kane, Darragh Barden
Scorers: Dermot Moore 1-4, 1f; Aidan Leonard & Carl McCrane 0-2 each; John Mooney, John Reilly & Alan Smullen 0-1 each
Team: P.J. Cummins, David Lyons, Alan Dignam, David Hughes, Mickey Browne, Carl McCrane, David O’Connor, Noel Casey, Tom O’Loughlin, Dermot Moore, Sean Moriarty, Aidan Leonard, John Mooney, Noel Mallon, Alan Smullen. Subs: Darren Campbell, Emmett Mulhall, Anton Bolton, Eoghan McGrath, David Hughes, Mickey Browne, John Reilly, Mickey Williams, Enda Rochford
Referee: Jason McAndrew (Monaghan)