In the wake of Dublin’s victory over Mayo in the Senior All Ireland over the weekend, it is also important to reflect on what was once a somewhat overlooked part of the game; The LGFA Junior final between Longford and Antrim which took place the previous week. In what was a weekend marred with controversy over the use of hawk eye (or the non-use of it), and the conditions that ladies footballers have to deal with, we thank the Longford Ladies for staging a remarkable comeback against Antrim which showcased why ladies football is continuing to rise year on year.

With talk of the Junior Championship being taken out of Croke Park for next year’s finals, the exhibition in the Junior final at the weekend can only breathe fresh air back into the championship once again.

In previous years, low attendances and poor one sided games have been to blame for people overlooking the junior championship in favour of the intermediate and senior finals and this is something that players and teams taking part in the junior competition are trying their best to change.

Nine points down and with Antrim looking dangerous on every attack, super subs Aisling Reynolds and Aoife Darcy added to midfielder Jacinta Brady’s stunning long range goal effort to claw Longford back in front to eventually win with ease. They managed to score 3-8 without reply in a massive 17 point turnaround.

Social media was buzzing over the course of the game with the likes of Des Cahill and Marty Morrissey applauding the remarkable comeback and football that was on show.

This is just one quote from Des Cahill who was tweeting thoroughly to his flowers throughout the game.

For most, the junior final is nothing but a curtain raiser, almost compulsory for the LGFA to hold the event with the teams never really given the recognition they deserve.

For some small footballing counties (respectively) like Longford, Antrim and Carlow, this competition is one needed to keep football alive and kicking within the county by hopefully inspiring younger girls that they can achieve the same success one day.

Every ladies footballer admires the likes of Rena Buckley and Briege Stack and for it to be possible for a footballer from a smaller county to play on the same pitch and on the same day as the players they look up to is something that a lot of players can only dream of.

Fortunately, the Junior Championship makes this dream possible.

The Longford Ladies had not made an appearance in Croker for 19 years before 2016, and you could see what it meant to every girl on that team. To take away such a great opportunity to bring pride and silverware back to your county by belittling the junior championship with a lesser venue would be truly devastating for ladies football.

The attendance record was broken once again this year with 34,445 supporters making their way to Croker for the finals. With many onlookers remarking how thrilling the Junior final was with such free flowing, direct football on display by Antrim in the first half and Longford in the second, the Junior final deserves as much recognition as the intermediate and senior finals and we credit both Antrim and Longford ladies for breathing life back into this competition and hopefully solidifying its place in Croke Park for next year!

Laura Burke