Long is on learning curve with Salthill Devon

Date Published: {J}

ALTHOUGH Salthill Devon have lost their opening three games in their debut season in the Airtricity League First Division, Head Coach Emlyn Long prefers to focus on the long-term goals. Drom wasn’t built in a day; the establishment of Salthill as a footballing power in the upper echelons of League of Ireland football will take some time.

At 32 years of age, and with the full support of the club’s committee behind the management team, Long certainly has plenty of this on his side. Speaking to the Head Coach, it is evident that he is very much a patient man, a man who is willing to stay the course. He likes to do things in his own time. And for good reason. Life, or football, will not pass him by. This seems to be the Long ethos.

Having spent his early years in Castle Park, the Long family moved to Knocknacarra as Emlyn was entering his teenage years. Immediately, he got involved in Salthill Devon, playing underage up through the grades until he left for the United States after sitting the Leaving Cert.

The year previous, he had broken his leg and for any 17-year-old involved in any sport, it was a major setback. His time on the sidelines ran into his exam year, and although he did dabble in the game that season, he was no longer as confident or as happy on the field of play as he had been before the break.

In any event, after his Leaving Cert. Long moved to New York, where he spent two years receiving an education in life, before returning home to study Property Evaluations in GMIT. Again, though, he was determined life would not pass him, and on his graduation in 2001, he grabbed his rucksack once again, and travelled the world for a year with his then girlfriend, now wife, Diane Mongan, a native of Renmore and daughter of well-known local musician, Vinny.

Having seen the world and the World Cup – he was in Japan and Korea for the 2002 tournament – Long arrived home later that year and was invited by a friend of his, Ronan Gilligan, to get involved with Devon’s U-15s.

In the ensuing years, he progressed up through the ranks, winning an Umbro Cup with the U-17s before taking Salthill’s U-21 side to national honours when winning the Dr. Tony O’Neill Cup in 2005/2006, defeating Cork City in the decider.

“It was kind of one of those things where we went out with no expectations,” says Long. “The club had been in the U-21 a few years previously and hadn’t been very successful. But Paul McGee, ‘Ski’, had driven the agenda to get the club involved in that competition again because we had very strong U-16, U-17 and U-18 teams at the time. So, ‘Ski’ and Pete Kelly were the main instigators to get us back into the U-21. We went in with no real expectations, but after winning the first three or four games, it just took on its own momentum from there.”

Indeed, emerging from the group stages with a burgeoning reputation in the 2005/’06 season, Salthill subsequently accounted for Kerry League (2-1), Galway United (4-0) and Sligo Rovers (2-0) in the knockout stages, before defeating Cork City 2-1 in the final to become the first non national league club to lift the Tony O’Neill trophy.

Long maintains, though, that it was the 2-1 victory against the Kerry League in Tralee that was the making of the team, especially as the Galwegians had conceded a goal after just 30 seconds. “I think I aged about 10 years,” laughs Long. “To be honest, I was more relieved with that result than I was when we beat Cork City in the final. It was that intense.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.