2000’s – Silverware at last
Despite the disappointment of the championship exit in 1999, there was growing optimism that Longford had a great squad of players coming together. The first competition of the millennium was the O’Byrne cup and wins over Kildare, Dublin and Offaly set up a midlands derby against Westmeath in Mullingar. A large crowd turned out to see these two young teams in action and the provided a thriller with a late Trevor Smullen goal setting up a 2-6 to 0-7 win for Longford, their first O’Byrne Cup since 1965. The good form continued in the league, with three good wins, but defeat to Laois in the final game denied promotion. The championship was played on a round robin basis. The key game was against Wexford, where they won 3-9 to 0-12. Two wins against Wicklow and Carlow didn’t see Longford through.
Team of Millennium
The start of the new millennium also saw the selection of Longford’s ‘Team of the Millennium’ as follows:
- Goalkeeper: John Heneghan – Ballymahon
- Right Corner Back: Seamus Flynn – Clonguish
- Full Back: Larry Gillen – Ardagh, St Patricks
- Left Full Back: Billy Morgan – Killoe Young Emmets
- Right Half Back: Brendan Barden – Clonguish
- Centre Half Back: Mick Casey – Cashel
- Left Half Back: Eamon Meagher – Drumlish
- Midfield: Jim Hannify – Drumlish
- Midfield: Jimmy Flynn – Clonguish
- Right Half Forward: Jackie Devine – Mostrim
- Center Half Forward: Vincent Tierney – Granard
- Left Half Forward: Jimmy Hannify – Fr Manning Gaels
- Right Full Forward: Dessie Barry – Longford Slashers
- Full Forward: Joe Regan – Granard
- Left Full Forward: Sean Donnelly – Longford Slashers
2001 saw Longford surrender the O’Byrne cup in the opening round. The league saw Longford win 4 from the first 5, but defeats to Monaghan and Kidlare in the final round meant there was no promotion. The championship started with a terrific win over Louth in Navan to set up a quarter final against the Dubs. They ultimately won well in the Croke Park clash. 2001 also saw the introduction of the back door, or qualifiers. Longford’s first second chance outing was away to Wicklow, where the garden county men won 1-14 to 0-11.
Hurlers promoted to Division 2
2002 saw a mixed league campaign where promotion evaded Longford again. The senior championship saw Longford take on Louth where the game went to a replay which Louth won convincingly. Longford’s first home qualifier game resulted in a great win over Down, but Derry were to prove too strong in round 2. Without doubt, 2002 belonged to the county minors. Playing in the preliminary rounds, wins over Carlow and Kilkenny set up a quarter final match against Offaly. A win here saw Longford face Dublin in Mullingar. A tight tense game ensued but Longford won 1-8 to 0-7 to set up a Leinster final against Meath where 2-3 from Michael Hussey saw Longford record a famous 3-8 to 3-5 win and earn a place in the All-Ireland quarter final. That game was a Shannon side derby where Longford defeated Leitrim 4-6 to 1-6 to earn a trip back to Croke Park, but Derry proved much too strong as they won 3-13 to 1-3, indeed they went on to win the final comfortably as well. 2002 was also a great year for Longford hurlers as they gained promotion to division 2 of the national league for the first time after a great win over Louth.
Longford’s short spell in Division 1
2003 saw Longford full of confidence and they started well with a run to the O’Byrne Cup final, where Kildare were too strong. A great league campaign followed and a win over Derry in the final round in Ballymahon saw Longford promoted and into the division 2 semi finals, but Westmeath pipped Longford to a 1-16 to 2-12 win. The championship draw was tough for Longford, going out to Kildare in the opening round and Donegal in the tough qualifier match. The u-21s had a good run in 2003 with wins over Wexford and Meath after extra time setting up a final against Dublin, but the Dubs were too strong, winning 3-13 to 1-6. The following year had Longford in division 1 for the first time in many years. A famous win over Kerry in the first game was followed up with a win over Westmeath. Defeats followed against Tyrone, Mayo and Cork. The key game against Fermanagh saw Longford lose and so needed to defeat Dublin in Parnell Park to avoid relegation, but Dublin won 2-12 to 2-9. The championship started off with a very disappointing defeat against Carlow, but a late goal in the qualifier game against Monaghan brought extra time and a famous win. Longford went on to beat Waterford, but Dublin proved too strong in round 3.
2005 saw a mixed league with three wins and three draws, but defeat to Roscommon meant Longford stayed in division 2. The championship was no kinder as Longford faced Dublin in Croke Park. Dublin were a point up at half time, but went on to record an emphatic win in the second half. The qualifier saw Sligo edge out Longford in the first round. The u-21s in 2005 would reach the Leinster semi final, but Dublin would have their revenge for the minor semi final three years earlier.
2006 – Longford reach Championship last 16
2006 saw Longford embark on a great championship campaign. The Leinster championship draw was tough as once again we faced Dublin, this time in Longford. A packed Pearse Park saw Longford come within a whisker of a famous win, Dublin winning 1-12 to 0-13. The qualifiers opened up with a wins over Tipperary and Waterford before Longford recorded a famous win over Derry in Pearse Park. This put Longford in round four for the first time and one game away from an All-Ireland quarter final. Longford faced Kerry in Killarney and a huge travelling support saw Longford put in a brave performance, but Kerry, who unleashed Kieran Donaghy that night saw them win 4-11 to 1-11 on their way to All-Ireland success. Our under 21s again reached the Leinster final after wins over Carlow and Kildare where we faced Laois in front of a big crowd in Pearse Park, but Laois won a tense game on a scoreline of 0-9 to 0-7.
Longford win O’Byrne Cup Shield
2007 started off with some silverware for Longford as they won the newly formed O’Byrne Cup shield played amongst teams beaten in the first round. The final was a 2-10 to 1-7 win over Athlone IT. 2007 again saw Longford at home in the first round of the championship where despite being a well behind at half time, a great come back saw Longford win 2-13 to 1-13. The quarter final against Laois was a tense affair on a damp night in Tullamore, but Laois were too strong winning 0-14 to 0-9. This was a demoralising defeat for Longford who faced Westmeath again in the qualifiers and they extracted revenge with a 9 point win. There was no repeat for our u-21s going out to Offaly at the quarter final stage.
The O’Byrne cup would again give Longford a fruitful run in 2008. Wins over Kildare, Meath and DCU set up a final appearance against Dublin in Parnell Park. The game was an exciting affair with Dublin pipping Longford by a single point thanks to a late late goal. The championship saw Longford face midland rivals Westmeath once more, this time Westmeath winning 2-10 to 1-10. There was to be no qualifier run though, Laois toppling Longford on the first run. Longford’s u-21s exited at the first round stage, but the minors had good wins over Laois and Louth to set up a semi final against Meath, which the royals won 3-9 to 2-8 in Navan.
2009 saw no improvement in the Leinster championship proper as Wicklow won the first round meeting by two points. But the qualifiers saw Longford defeat Leitrim in Pairc Sean to set up a home game against Kerry. Kerry had a good lead at half time, but a brave second half performance saw Longford put the Kingdom under pressure, but they held on for a 1-12 to 0-11 win. Longford juniors had a good run in 2009 reaching the leinster final in Croke Park, where we drew with Louth, but Louth won the replay 1-12 to 0-10.
In the mid 2000s a new hurling championship was introduced. Longford competed in the Nicky Rackard cup in 2005 narrowly losing out to Tyrone in the quarter final. 2006 saw Longford go a stage further as they reached the semi final, only to lose to Donegal in Enniskillen. Donegal were again to knock Longford out in the 2007 quarter final, while 2008 was a major disappointment as Longford didn’t get out of the group stages. 2009 saw the introduction of the Lory Meagher cup which Longford entered. Wins over Warwickshire and Donegal saw Longford reach the semi final, but Croke Park was to elude Longford again as Tyrone won the semi final by four points.
2000’s Club Overview
On the club scene, a number of clubs won their first titles and others bridge a long gap. Abbeylara got the ball rolling by defeating Fr Manning Gaels in 2000 to win their first title after so many near misses. The Gaels were back on top in 2001, before Ballymahon recorded their maiden senior victory in 2002. Clonguish then breached a 22 year gap to win in 2003 and 2004. Dromard won win titles in 2005 and 2007 in between another Abbeylara success in 2006 before Colmcille ended a 50 year wait for Sean Connolly cup success in 2008. The decade ended with Clonguish back on top after winning their third title of the decade win a replayed win over Dromard.
Hurling was dominated by Wolfe Tones and the coming of age of Clonguish Gaels (between them they won 5 and 3 titles respectively) after Slashers Gaels had got the new century off to a flying start with victories in 2000 and 2001.
The intermediate grade also provided some great matches. St Columbas won their way back to senior in 2000, followed by Carrickedmond ending a 23 year wait. Granard’s second string won in 2003 followed by big wins for Kilashee, Ballymore Rathcline and Ardagh. St Columbas and Kenagh needed two epic games to be seperated in 2007 with the North Longford men winning in dramatic fashion before Cashel ended the decade with wins in 2008 and 2009.
The junior championship saw a good spread of titles across clubs with wins for Rathcline, Legan, Longford Slashers, Shroid Slashers, Clonguish, Grattans, Fr Manning Gaels, Mostrim, Shroid and St Munis. Indeed St Munis also won the 2006 solely Junior club championship.