Peter O'Reilly reflects on Longford's successful year in Gaelic Games

What a year of headlines. We've had the good and the bad, both on and off the playing field. Everyone within this great Association when looking back on the past year or any given year will have their own outstanding memories.

What a year of headlines. We've had the good and the bad, both on and off the playing field. Everyone within this great Association when looking back on the past year or any given year will have their own outstanding memories.

Some of my memories/good news stories for 2010 include the following which are far from exhaustive:

• County Senior Hurlers capture the Lory Meagher All Ireland Cup and reach Allianz Division 4 Final

• County Minor Footballers bring home the Leinster title (Fr. Murray Cup)

• County Senior Footballers dump Mayo out of the All-Ireland Championship

• Tom McLoughlin is the recipient of a GAA President's Award for his contribution to our Association

• The continued success of our Annual Race Day which in the past 8 years has raised over a million euro

• Schools Forum organised with Brian Cody and Colm O' Rourke as guest speakers

• Huge turnout at ASAP Seminar at which John Connolly is guest speaker

• The Go Games model is adopted in Longford

• Marie McCormack (Emmet g) captures Provincial Solo Singing Scr title

• Ballymahon Secondary School win Leinster Vocational Schools Senior 'A' Football title

• Wolfe Tones win inaugural Inter County Club Tournament

• Sean Connolly Cup celebrates 50 years and its winning Captains are acknowledged on County Final day

• Northern Gaels win All-Ireland File U-14) title

• Glenn Ryan term as County Senior Manager extended

• County ASAP policy put in place

• Longford Slashers bridge a 16 year gap to win the Sean Connolly Cup

County Scene

Three major achievements on the playing field in the period from the 26th June to 11th July meant that Longford's standing in the world of Gaelic Games soared and the spirits of us supporters were lifted from all the doom and gloom that surrounds us. This period commenced with our Senior Footballers taking the scalp of Mayo in the All-Ireland Qualifiers, to be followed by our County Senior Hurlers winning the All-Ireland Lory Meagher Cup and then to be crowned by our County Minor Footballers winning the Leinster Minor title.

The success of both teams who captured titles is incredible when you consider the following - Lory Meagher Cup was won with only 3 Hurling Clubs in the County plus the small number of players we are allowed transfer to us while the Fr. Murray Cup was brought back to Longford for the second time in eight years.

Limerick Injustice

The decision to award the game to Limerick in the National Football League following an incorrect interpretation of the experimental rules by the Referee, who admitted to this in his official report, was an injustice which was further compounded by the Hearings Committee failure to allow our appeal. Would the same decision have been arrived at if some of the top Counties were in a similar situation?

I don't believe that there is room in our games for "experimental rules" – bring them in at all levels at the same time. The present situation of different rules in different competitions leads to confusion with players and spectators alike and especially with referees who might be refereeing with different rules on a number of occasions in a given week as was the position in the above case.

Glenn Ryan brought in the services of Graham Geraghty at the end of the league and this had an instant impact with a number of good displays in challenge games. We had chances in the first round of the Championship v Louth but a better awareness while in possession saw the "Wee" County get over us and march on to a Provincial Final where they were robbed by their neighbours Meath. We regrouped for the qualifiers and following a challenge v Westmeath which we won having played extremely well our hopes were high going into the Mayo game and as the saying goes "the rest is history".

This win led to a meeting with Down in Pirc Esler on a miserable "Summers" evening. If we had the home venue we definitely would have fancied our chances. We didn't get the "rub of the green" that evening and so Championship 2010 was over for us. Down went on to prove themselves in the Championship by getting to the All-Ireland Final.

Our U-21 team reached the Shield Final of the Hastings competition in January only to be beaten by Leitrim after extra-time. They exited the Leinster Championship to a superior Wicklow side at the first hurdle. The time and effort put into preparing this squad and the dedication shown by all was huge just for a single championship fixture. Our Leinster Council delegates have endeavoured for 2011, but to no avail to introduce a losers section into the U-21 championship.

I feel it is something that is needed and would enhance this competition and hopefully will come to pass in the not too distant future.

2011 looks like being a tough year on the Inter-county front for Longford as the recently made draws see us up against the perceived stronger Counties in the various competitions. Hopefully, the Minor Panel of 2010 will be around and playing football and thus backbone a future U-21 squad and fast forward to the Senior squad.

Given the economic news of the past few weeks I fear that we are once again facing mass emigration. Fermanagh, which is of similar size GAA wise to Longford stated recently that Inter County transfers averaged 20 per month. This sort of transfer rate would wipe out our Inter County playing strength and is something we need to be conscious of in planning for the future.

I wish to thank all the members of our County Senior and U-21 Panels along with their particular Management teams and Backup support for their commitment and dedication throughout the past year and especially when things weren't going as planned. Glenn Ryan's tenure has been extended for another 12 months and with his new look backroom team I'm sure our fortunes can be turned around.

Also thanks to our team sponsors – Longford Arms Hotels from U-21 to Senior and Cool Beans for their Minor sponsorship. Your funding in these poorer economic times is invaluable and I hope that you both got a great buzz and a large return from the success we have had in 2010.

Longford Slashers County Champions

Our local Championships saw Longford Slashers regain the Sean Connolly Cup (in its Jubilee year) after a lapse of 16 years over a Dromard team that sorely missed the services of ace marksman Francie Mc Gee. It is good for the GAA to see a town side with a population base back at the top. Carrickedmond took the Intermediate title against Ballymore with Abbeylara and Ballymahon collecting the 'A' and 'B' Junior Championship over Mostrim and Carrickedmond respectively.

At U-21 level the beneficiaries of all the success that is Northern Gaels - Abbeylara (beat Fr. Manning Gaels) and St. Columba's (beat Colmcille/Sean Connollys) won the 'A' and 'B' Championship respectively. St. Vincent's collected the Minor title with a team that contained five of the Leinster winning side against Northern Gaels Killoe g were champions at Juvenile (U-16) 'A' level while Northern Gaels dominated at Under 14 level, winning the 'A' Championship, League and File and going on to win a National File title in Derry. This achievement augers well for the future of both parent Clubs – Abbeylara and St. Columba's. Perhaps the Northern Gaels model is something that some other Clubs might take on board when planning for the future with emigration again raising its ugly head. Congratulation to all championship winning teams in 2010.

Changes to Club Championship and League

Following my first year as Secretary of CCCC, I believe that along with making changes to our Championships we also need to change our League competitions. Presently we have too many games in Division 1 and a widening gulf is emerging between the top and bottom teams in both Division 1 & 2. Both of these leagues are leading to meaningless games. It is my view that the league of a number of years ago whereby we had 12 teams in Division 1, 6 teams in Division 2 and 6 teams in Division 3 is the one we need to go for. Division 1 would have 11 games while Divisions 2 & 3 would have a double round (10 games) in order to fulfil the quota of games per club as per National Committee. We should make changes in 2011 which will lead us to the above starting position by 2012.

Training Centre

Our purchase of a site for a training centre at Lyneen in late 2009 should have been a great boost to all Gaels. As you are well aware by now Longford County Council saw fit to grant planning permission for the project but this decision was subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanla where we lost and we now find ourselves back at square one. Less anyone would be in any doubt, I am totally in favour of this project and believe the benefits to Longford GAA of such a project are unquantifiable but with the benefit of hindsight I believe we moved too quickly to the planning stage this time last year. We were not helped along the way by a critical analysis document prepared by one of our own and which was later to form a part of the appeal process to an Bord Pleanla. Sean Lucy and Associates, having been retained by us, have sifted through the decision of an Bord Pleanla with a fine tooth comb and are indicating a positive future for the project subject to a number of changes in design and other areas. Subject to a favourable report following the completion of this process we will then be in a position to move forward again with something that is badly needed in our County. The fact that at a recent meeting of Coiste Chontae all parties involved pledged their support in progressing the project is naturally of great benefit to achieving this goal.

Referees

I wish to thank all our referees for their dedication to the cause over the past 12 months. Continued success to those who are on Academy, Provincial and National Panels. Refereeing is not a simple task but your commitment and attention to detail has in no small way led to 2010 being a good year overall for discipline on the field.

I also thank all Clubs and their Players and Mentors for contributing to this situation. The introduction of the Respect initiative towards referees at U-12 level last Spring is beginning to bear fruit.

Clubs must buy into this process by speaking with their members/spectators and especially, in a minority of clubs, with their team mentors advising on involvement and enjoyment and not on the win at all costs mentality. In relation to referee recruitment we must now move to another level by getting all Clubs to provide at least one referee to officiate. During some weeks/weekends of the past year we barely had enough referees to cover all games that were down for decision, even after giving some double fixtures. If this serious situation is not addressed in the short term we will have no option other than to postpone games or request referees from neighbouring counties which will bring an additional cost on Clubs.

Thanks

I could not begin to thank all the people who through helping me out in the past year have also made a generous contribution to Longford GAA. As my first year in the hot seat it has been hugely exciting and for the most part very enjoyable. For this I owe a debt of gratitude to all including: Pat Cahill and all the other Members of Coiste Bainist especially those whose were at my beck and call when required. This year sees two members retiring from their positions, Margaret Farrell and John |Duffy. On behalf of you all I thank them for their efforts over the years.

My hard working colleagues on CCCC led by Michael Lennon and ably assisted by Pat Donnelly, Joe O'Brien, John Greene, Frankie Mulligan, Gerry Minnock and Eamon Higgins. The Clubs for their loyalty, support and commitment To all who promote our games at all ages especially Paddy and Damien our Coaches. 2010 saw the departure of Noel Boyce from our Coaching Staff. I thank Noel for his contribution to the GAA over many years and wish him well in his endeavours in the future.