GAA reaction: Ryan bemoans 'poor second half,' despite victory

The Longford manager was in a relaxed mood, after his side’s hard-earned win yesterday.

Glenn Ryan celebrates with his son.
Glenn Ryan celebrates with his son.

GLENN RYAN SAT with his two sons, and might as well have been talking about his plans for the rest of the weekend, so relaxed was the Longford manager.

You’d never have guessed his side had clung to this title and refused to let go no matter how hard Wexford tugged and pulled at it down the stretch. Then again, he’s getting used to this. That’s two league titles in as many years and who would have guessed a footballing footnote like his adopted county are now a side with serious championship aspirations. They take on Laois in the Leinster Championship in a few weeks with so much more than the usual puncher’s chance but while the first half here showed why they might win that game, the second half showed why they might lose it.

“We played well in the first half, poorly in the second half,” said the Kildare native. “But look, it’s great that we hung on and I actually thought we’d need an extra score towards the end. Our fellas showed great willingness to work hard and be disciplined when we could have given away some very handy scores towards the end. I was delighted the way we approached the final few minutes even though we were on the back foot. It was disappointing after the break but by God, the overriding emotion is we are delighted and there are plenty of things we need to work on, which is great.

“We tried not to think about winning a title coming up to today. Three weeks time [the championship opener with Laois] and getting promoted are what mattered. Today was a bonus but when you get that you are delighted and I’m delighted for the players. It’s a lot of the same players that went through the hardship we suffered for a couple of years. They probably appreciate it more and are probably stronger individuals as a result of everything. In order to bring teams along you’ve to experience hurt and we experienced that against Laois last year.”

Asked about the importance of Michael Quinn, the former Essendon Bomber who returned this year and put in a performance at six that Ryan would have been proud of in his best years, the manager was typically evasive. “We can’t start highlighting individuals. We are a small county and we’ve to get the best out of the lads we have whether they are number one or number 31. That’s the difference with us. Michael Quinn has added a lot, guys coming through from minor and under-21 have added to things too and that’s all key. Had Michael Quinn been here one or two years ago, maybe he wouldn’t have been the outstanding player he is because the guys around him wouldn’t be there. But we are delighted to have each and every one of them no matter who they are. We are so happy with the effort they all put in out there today.

“And we have to have an extraordinary working work rate, especially against a side like Wexford. We have to move ourselves onto a different level every time we go out and we have to outfight and outwork the opposition each time, especially if they are perceived to be a stronger team. If we don’t do that we’ll struggle and today we did it for 35 minutes and did well. We didn’t do it for 35 minutes and we didn’t do well. It took a huge effort to get a 10-point lead and it took a huge effort in the second half to hold out.”

Finally, you ask Ryan about the fact he is now in charge of a Division Two side. And forget about the title for a moment, as hard as that may be, but regarding the future of Longford football his answer here is the greatest cause for optimism for those in the tiny county.

“As a result of all the hard work at underage, there’s a stream of good footballers coming through and the incentive is there for them now, to play at a higher level. I’m not just here to put trophies in the cabinet and there has to be a longer-term objective. We are doing our best to make sure the best players Longford is producing are part of a set-up that’s ambitious, at a high level and winning. So this means they have something to look forward and they have a team they want to play for.”

Read: As it happened: Longford v Wexford, National Football League Division Three Final>

Read: League decider preview: Young Mayo players out to silence history>

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