1960’s – The decade of success
The 1960s are rightly remembered as the glory years of Longford GAA as covered in 1966/1968, but a lot more happened that decade. The 1960 championship started off with a 0-9 to 0-8 win over Meath, but things were quickly brought down to earth by a rampant Dublin side winning 10-13 to 3-8. 1961 started well for all the championship teams with Minor, Junior and Senior recording wins over Westmeath, as well as St Mels winning the Leinster championship. The seniors won 3-10 to 0-8 setting up a match with Meath, which Meath won on a score of 1-6 to 0-8, Longford being left to rue a defensive mix up for a goal and a penalty miss. Longford reached the final of the O’Byrne cup after wins over Meath, Louth & Dublin, but Offaly were too strong in the final, winning 1-10 to 0-6.
Laois were too strong for Longford in the 1962 championship, but once again, a good run in the O’Byrne cup saw Longford defeat Offaly, Wicklow and Kildare to reach the final, but the final in Drogheda against Louth was a bridge to far as the home team won 1-10 to 0-10. 1963 saw a first round win over Westmeath before falling to Offaly. Westmeath would over turn this championship result in 1964, a year which saw the passing of Fr Sean Manning, the Dublin native who was county board chairman from 1945 to 1950 as well as being the St Mels trainer for many years.
1965 was to be a forerunner for the coming years. The senior championship started with a 1-5 to 0-5 win over Offaly in Mullingar which set up a quarter final against Laois where 1-2 from Bobby Burns saw Longford win 1-9 to 0-8. The semi final was a game against Meath, where Longford put in on of their finest performances to win on a scoreline of 2-8 to 1-7. The final saw Longford take on Dublin. A poor first half was the undoing of Longford where a penatly was missed after 7 minutes which was followed up with a fortunate Dublin goal minutes later. Dublin led 1-5 to 0-3 at the break. The second half was a much improved performance from Longford, but Dublin ran out 3-6 to 0-9 winners. The Longford team in the final was L Flynn, J Flynn, L Gillen, B Gilmore, B Barden, J Donlon, T McGovern, J Flynn, J Hannify, J Devine, M Hopkins, M Burns, S Murray, B Burns, S Donnelly. Subs J Heneghan, M Reilly, J Sheridan, S Ryan, P Sheridan.
But Longford didn’t end the year empty handed as wins over Offaly and Louth saw Longford reach another O’Byrne cup final. 7500 people came to Pearse Park as Longford came from two points behind at half time to win 1-9 to 1-6. Brendan Barden was the winning captain and the team was M Fay, S Flynn, L Gillen, B Gilmore, B Barden, J Donlon, T McGovern, J Hannify, J Flynn, J Devine, M Hopkins, M Burns, S Murray, B Burns, S Donnelly.
1965 also saw the first running of the Fr Manning Cup as Longford won the new tournament by defeating Westmeath 0-4 to 0-3.
1966 National League Title
1966 would become the most successful year in the history of Longford football. On the back of an O’Byrne cup success over Kildare in 1965 and reaching the leinster football final, Longford started the 65/66 league with wins over Cavan 4-7 to 2-12, Sligo 1-9 to 1-8 and Leitrim 0-12 to 0-6.
Longford won the division 2 semi final against Meath 1-7 to 0-8 and defeated Cavan again 0-11 to 0-7 to qualify for the league semi final proper where they defeated Donegal 0-13 to 0-11 to meet the all conquering Galway in the home final. The final was won 0-9 to 0-8 with Bobbie Burns scoring 8 points and the other coming from Sean Murray.
The league final proper was a two leg affair against New York. Longford won the first leg 1-9 to 0-7 and although they lost the second leg by 0-10 to 0-9 were crowned National League Champions for 1966. The game was played on October 9th in Croke Park almost 29 years to the day after the All-Ireland Junior Crown.
While the 1966 league ended in a historic National League victory, the 1966 championship turned out to be a disappointment as Louth caused a shock, winning 0-13 to 0-7. The 1967 championship saw Longford defeat Kildare after a replay before losing to Offaly 0-13 to 1-7.
1968 Leinster Champions
In 1968 the championship first round was a repeat of the 1965 Leinster final where Longford defeated Dublin 1-12 to 0-12 in Tullamore. The sides were level 6 times, but Jackie Devine scored the key goal to set up a semi final meeting with All Ireland Champions Meath.
Played in Mullingar in front of 20,000 people, Longford always had the upper hand on the champions with Mick Hopkins and Jimmy Hannify doing most of the scoring to win 0-13 to 0-7.
Laois were the opponents in the final and Longford went 0-5 to 0-0 ahead in the first quarter. Laois responded with 1-1 but two further points left Longford 0-7 to 1-1 ahead at the break. But seven minutes into the second half Sean Donnelly scored the first Longford goal. Laois responded with points but goals from Sean Donnelly and Jimmy Hannify and further points left Longford with an historic 3-9 to 1-4 win. The back room team was trainer Mick Higgins and his selectors Fr Phil Mc Gee, who was the manager, Jimmy Flynn, Mel McCormack, Mickey Kelly, Patsy Reilly and Bertie Allen.
The team who lined out for the final was John Heneghan, Jimmy Flynn, Larry Gillen, P Barden, Brendan Barden, John Donlon, JP Reilly, Jimmy Flynn, Tom Mulvihill (0-2), Jackie Devine (0-2), Jimmy Hannify (1-1), Vincent Daly, Captain, Sean Murray (0-1), Mick Hopkins (0-1), Sean Donnelly (2-1). Subs M Reilly, P Burke (0-1), M Burns, Brendan Gilmore, S Ryan, D Kiernan, J Donlon.
1968 All Ireland Semi Final
The semi final saw Longford face the might of the Kingdom in Croke Park. Over 34000 people saw the new Leinster champions take on Kerry. Longford got off to a great start going 0-4 to 0-1 ahead after five minutes, but a Kerry goal from Pat Griffen saw Kerry take over and a further first half goal left the half time score 2-7 to 0-6.
Longford got a great start to the second half when Tom Mulvihill scored a great solo goal. Further points to just two in reply from Kerry left just two points between the sides. Then Longford were awarded a penalty which Jackie Devine struck to the net to leage Longford 2-10 to 2-9 ahead. But Kerry responded with points from Mick O’Dwyer, Brendan Lynch and DJ Crowley dashed Longford’s dream of reaching a first all-Ireland senior final.
The Longford team was John Heneghan, Seamus Flynn, Larry Gillen, P Barden, Brendan Barden, John Donlon, JP Reilly, M Reilly, Tom Mulvihill (1-2), Jackie Devine (1-4), Jimmy Hannify (0-2), Vincent Daly (Captain), P Burke, Mick Hopkins (0-3), Sean Donnelly. Subs M Burns, Brendan Gilmore, S Murray, Jimmy Flynn, S Ryan
That championship run saw Larry Gillen, John Donlon, Jimmy Hannify and Sean Donnelly play for leinster in the railway cup and Brendan Barden was a sub. There were no all stars in that era, but Longford would surely have picked up a number had such honours existed.
1969 was a huge climb down as Wexford defeated Longford 3-5 to 1-8. Wexford also defeated Longford in the minor championship 1-12 to 0-9 to end what would be the most successful period of football in Longford GAA history.
1960s – Club Overview
On the club front there’s no doubt that the 1960s belonged to Clonguish, winning 6 senior championships including a marvellous four in a row. The other championship titles throughout the 1960’s were won by Killoe, Slashers and two titles for Granard. The 60s also saw the formation of the intermediate championship in 1966 with Kenagh being the first winners of the grade. Mostrim, Cashel and Ballymahon were the other winners. Junior winners included Ballymahon, (who did a double with the Leader Cup), two for Cashel, two for Rathcline, Kilashee, Mostrim, Connnollys and first titles for Legan and Shroid.