Building the Herd – Ciaran Long

#89 Ciaran Long

Position: Forward

Born: Birmingham, England

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 10th July

(c) 5 Hole Photography

(c) 5 Hole Photography

Having completed the blueline section of the roster last week, Doug Sheppard returned this week with another big signing with the news that Ciaran Long has put pen to paper to return for 2014/15.

Long, who will turn 24 at the start of the season will amazingly be entering his 9th full EPL season after starting his senior career with Swindon. Long made a solitary EPL appearance for the Wildcats in 2005/06 whilst staring at u16 and u19 level at The Link before being a more permanent fixture in senior hockey in 2006/07 where he scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 31 contests.

2007/08 saw another season of EPL play and this time 9 points as Ciaran scored 8 goals and 1 assist alongside a barnstorming season at under 18 level with an outstanding 36 points and 100 PIMs in 10 games. 2008/09 proved to be Ciaran’s breakout year in Swindon as he firmly established himself as a player to watch with a 32 point season that put the eyes of EPL coaches firmly on him.

Since that season, Long has bounced around the EPL somewhat. 2009/10 saw him depart The Link for Slough where he had a 40 point season and picked up a playoff winners medal. This caught the attentions of then Bison coach Steve Moria who lured Ciaran from Berkshire to Hampshire for the 2010/11 campaign. Long became a firm fan favourite in Basingstoke as he tallied 30 points in 39 games for the Bison. He also near single handedly dragged the Bison through their playoff quarter final encounter with Milton Keynes but the Bison fell agonisingly short.

After that season, Long was tempted up the M1 and signed on for Tony Hand and the Manchester Phoenix. Again, Ciaran became a firm favourite with the fans and had a solid 2011/12 where he scored 19 goals and 31 points which earned him a return for 2012/13. The season started well enough for Long if a little light on scoring and just after the half way point and for no reason that’s ever been that well explained to me, Long left for Slough where he quickly ratcheted up his scoring prowess with 25 points in 21 games for the Jets.

Long re-signed with the Jets to begin 2013/14 but, as many did, fell victim to the perilous financial situation and was told to seek an alternative club. With Joe Miller having agreed to move to Telford under their new ownership, Doug Sheppard moved quickly to secure Long’s services and the forward was unveiled at the Booster Club’s Christmas quiz night having been “disguised” in a Santa Claus outfit.

Long proved a vital addition to the Bison, adding scoring and depth performing in all situations and proving a vital addition to the top line at the end of the season as he linked up with Andy Melachrino and Tomas Karpov following the season ending injury to Michael Wales. Combining his totals at Slough and Basingstoke for the season, Ciaran had 60 points in 54 games. The season was rounded off with a superb solo goal in the playoff final to level the scores just seconds after Manchester had scored a goal on a powerplay on a penalty to Ciaran.

Ciaran has also represented GB at under 18 level 5 times with 11 points and the under 20s 12 times for 12 points.

Sport sometimes throws up moments worthy of an Oscar winning classic. The goal, the save, that one moment of drama that feels like it should be on the big screen. Then there are moments like 500 odd Manchester fans chanting “Phoenix reject” at Ciaran Long only to watch moments later as he robs the man at the blueline, skates in and slots the puck past Stephen Fone. I’m not sure if that’s comedy or tragedy.

The Bison arguably profited more from Slough’s demise than any other EPL side. Whilst Peterborough inherited Slava Koulikov and his vast network of contacts and a few players, the Bison signed Michael Wales then Ciaran Long and secured two of three trophies. Long’s signing as well was perfectly timed. With Joe Miller’s notice period nearing its end before he moved to Shropshire, the Bison needed someone to fill his role in the top 6 and on the powerplay and most importantly, fill the lost points. Long was the ideal candidate. He immediately made an impact on a line with Joe Greener and Nicky Chinn a second line that had a mix of everything as well as an in form Chinn feeding passes to the right places. When Wales broke his ankle, Long was placed with Karpov and Melachrino who were so full of confidence they nearly floated away at times. Long has always played with an edge so was able to fill the hole left by Muzzy. Ciaran didn’t stand and screen the netminder as much as Wales did but was a viable attacking threat from all angles.

His combined totals for last season make Long a point per game player and with the return of so many of his team mates from last season, given him a foundation of playing alongside people he has had success with can only bode well. Joe Rand spoke in his piece about how 2013/14 was a season where the Bison hit the ground running from the season before. If the Herd are to do the same in 2014/15, a Ciaran Long firing on all cylinders is a scary prospect for any of the 8 opponents in the EPL.

What I always like about Ciaran is how he gets improves as the season goes on. Some would dismiss this as him playing for a contract but this contract he is on was 18 months from December so he knew he was coming back. When the games get more important, Ciaran Long gets better. It just seems to be one of those things. If you scour the BOTW archives back to the Bison’s 2011 playoff quarter final loss to the MK Lightning, this isn’t a new trait. That game always sticks in my mind because when the Bison were on the back foot, Long was on a virtual one man mission to pull the team through. It didn’t work that time out and the make up of the Bison roster is vastly different now than it was then but that spark is always important as we saw in Coventry.

A top British player still in his early 20s who can score a point per game, play point on the powerplay, play on the penalty kill is something all teams should want. That said, someone should persuade him not to dye his facial hair.

Welcome back, Ciaran; if you’re going to try and compete with Aaron and Muzzy for the BOTW Mo-vember title then get planning.

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