Longstone aim to make the most of the drama

By Kieran Lynch

LONGSTONE will head into this weekend’s round two clash of the Down Senior Championship on a high after they defeated Castlewellan in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Corner-forward Niall Burden found the net seven minutes into additional time to take the game to penalties, where goalkeeper Daithi Rogan was the hero.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s clash with Glenn, Longstone manager Eamonn Morgan admitted that he didn’t enjoy the shootout.

“I couldn’t even watch the penalties to tell you the truth; that was my first experience with them,” he said.

“It’s not nice for either team, I felt for Castlewellan too. I don’t know what’s a good way to end the game, and I suppose when you’re on the right end of the result you don’t really care, but it is heart-wrenching for the loser.

“We never practiced a penalty all year, and our hero of the day Daithi Rogan would be more our sub goalkeeper than our main choice, so fair play to him.”

Longstone came into the championship on the back of a tough Division One league campaign where they were relegated, but the importance of winning in Round One can’t be understated.

They needed a relegation play-off final win against An Riocht to survive in 2022, but now with a win under their belt, they can begin looking up, not down in 2023.

“The league was a free hit for us this year, but the club made it clear of the importance of staying in Senior Championship football no matter what,” said Morgan.

“When I took over last year, promotion to Division One was looked at as a two-year thing, but we went on a hell of a run and got there in one. It came as a bonus and we were always going to take that bonus, and it meant that Division One football was a free hit for us.

“It’s a very, very tough league. You have four or five teams who can win the Down Championship, and if they do that then they’re Ulster contenders.

“We started off the league this year missing six of the players who got us up from Division Two, including our top scorer Conor Doran picking up a cruciate injury.

“We had a run at the start of the year where out of seven games, we lost five of them by a point, and two of them by two points, so we were very competitive at the start.”

Division Two’s Glenn are the lowest ranked team in the championship in terms of league position, and Morgan will be very familiar with them, having been involved in the management for three seasons.

However, just like Longstone, they will be full of confidence after their win over last season’s Intermediate Championship winners Saval.

“I would say if Glenn could have picked a team to draw, they would have picked us,” said Morgan.

“People will say it’s favourable for us, but they have great quality with players like Shay Miller, Niall McParland, Denis Murtagh, John O’Hare – the top goalkeeper in Down in my opinion.”

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