Former Longford manager Denis Connerton
Back in 1990 Sean Connolly’s moved into Senior ranks, and the transition was indeed exciting.
Coming from Intermediate was a real challenge.
One of the teams who were a respected senior team at that time, were Rathcline. A team of good balance, committed and tenacious in every department. One of the key people in that team was a wing back called Dennis Connerton.
An intelligent player, positionally aware, and we always made sure to keep the ball away from him as much as possible.
This was a man who would set up an attack out of nothing, and make it look easy. Very clever, disciplined, and exerting controlled aggression in every game.
I didn’t know him, at the time.
That was twenty eight years ago.
How time flits past in the wink of an eye.
Almost thirty years. Whoosshh!
Later on, as time passed our paths crossed again, and I ended up being part of the management team around the Longford Senior team, in 2004, after he called up and asked me to “help” as he put it. This became an enjoyable though very time consuming exercise.
In close quarters, and becoming intimate with his thinking, it was easy to realise that this was someone who thought deeply about he game of Gaelic Football, and moreover, loved being involved.
One must love it, to become involved in the first place, after all.
Dennis’ appetite for the game was deeply seated, and I’d describe it as obsessive to the nth degree.
A perfectionist in every sense, he’d go to Outer Mongolia if he thought there was a new way of looking at Gaelic football.
His research was exhaustive, his every move meticulous and his trading regimes were second to none.
Longford was lucky to have someone so committed in the county, and along with assistant manager Ciaran Fox - another similarly meticulous man who won the minor Leinster Final back in 2010, and with Enda Macken completing a trio of men with high intellectual ability - Dennis oversaw the development of a whole new way of playing in Longford.
Some might say it became boring for awhile, but that was only part of the system that was transitioning.
Longford became a difficult team to beat, and most who were at the game would believe they should have beaten Kildare, although they were short too many regulars to close the deal that day.
When I’d reached this point in the article I decided to call Dennis and get his thoughts, or hypothetical ambitions for Longford in 2019.
“Getting promotion to Division 2. That’s a must” he said.
“This year just passed, we were 24 seconds away from promotion, it’s important to remember that”.
He spoke of the years gone by and the fact that we beat Dublin by 6 points, in the O’Byrne Cup semi-final, and his opinion was that that took a lot out of the team.
It was, he said, an exhausting afternoon for the players.
“I’d say we’re on a par with the likes of Clare and Tipperary, and the current crop of players are good enough to easily survive and develop further in Div 2”.
He sounded wistful as he said, “Longford are a seeded team this year, meaning they’ll be drawn in the quarter finals of the Leinster Championship, all we need is a good draw”.
I asked him if he shared everyone’s view that Longford progressed, and he agreed “we were beaten by Kildare in 2015, and I felt terrible watching that game”.
“This year, 2018, only five of the starting team against Kildare that day, played. This means a huge transition has occurred.
“It’s for others to say whether or not they’re better. Personally however, I do think they have improved physically and mentally”.
I’ve known Dennis for a long time, and I do know he gave a great deal of thought to the question of staying another year. But when he learned that Ciaran Fox couldn’t do another year, that made his mind up, firmly.
As Dennis Connerton takes his leave, and walks away into the sunshine of retirement I’d say he can rest happy that he’s left his beloved Longford better than he found them.
That’s the thing about home managers, they usually care more than the visiting transient.