In 1991, Longford boasted a hurling district that spanned across seven clubs but that has gradually diminished and only three clubs have survived.
Veteran Edgeworthstown and county hurler Sean Browne is one of the remaining stickmen who can recall the prolific days.
Following the example paved by his older brother, Sean discovered a flavour for hurling and revelled in the times when hurling was a vibrant entity among the Longford youth.
“Things were great at U11 and U12 in all the clubs and the county scene was healthy as well. I was in awe of the older lads there when I started at 17 but it becomes too difficult to play football and hurling when lads play U14 and U16.”
Sean noted that this debilitating trend which strikes at the pre-adolescent years continues to thrive.
At 37, he still feels obligated to re-commit for every season to limit the damage of this epidemic and he’s not the only one.
“I was looking at a few photos of the team that won the Division three League in 1992 and some of those lads are still around. Ideally there should be younger players coming through to push me out of the team but they just aren’t there” lamented Sean.
Various incentives have been applied to prompt a revival such as vanquishing the division four inter-county League and replacing it with a combined club league between Cavan and Longford but Sean reports that a few clubs have already retreated from the competition.
The remedy is to install a solid, steady and structured administrative system comprised of members associated primarily with hurling, according to Sean.
“The coaches working at the moment work very hard but they’re linked to football and that goes for me too I’m involved with the football club but I always knew that I always survived a bit better with hurling. We need to get someone in who is just about hurling and then things might start to progress.”
Even with a slim substance of players, Longford still managed to make the ascent to success. In 2010, they meandered their way through the obstacle clashes of the Lory Meagher Cup and outshone all opposition.
It was a momentous achievement for the players to perform on the blessed soil of Croke Park and winning the tournament cemented Sean’s theory that – ‘it’s all worth it’.
As he mounted the steps for the winner’s procession, the slaps of applause greeting him flooded his mind with renewed aspirations of hope for the future.
“It was a really special day and we thought that the older lads might start playing but nothing has changed really and football still seems to be the preferred choice.”
Dual players can co-exist in a panel with players who specialise in the discipline, as is epitomised by the Cork talisman Eoin Cadigan, but it appears that Longford don’t want to embrace such a concept. Football is still the prevailing sport.
“I really think you can play county hurling and senior club football but if Eoin Cadigan can play at the highest level in both codes then it’s possible for anyone.”
Sean didn’t use a helmet so when the federation enforced the compulsion on all players to wear helmets, he struggled to adjust.
“I didn’t agree with it at the time and it was difficult to see properly when wearing it and I couldn’t understand why they needed to do it because I had never seen any dangerous injuries as a result of not wearing it. In hindsight it was probably a good idea.”
Hurling gave Sean years of joy. He wants to preserve the sport and his wish is that future generations who embody a commitment to the game can experience the same feeling.