Building the Herd – Ciaran Long

Building the Herd – Ciaran Long

#89 Ciaran Long

Position: Forward

Born: Birmingham, England

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 12th May

Around for a Long time; Ciaran Long will return for the Bison in 2016/17. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Around for a Long time; Ciaran Long will return for the Bison in 2016/17.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Continuing the theme of big name re-signings, Doug Sheppard announced the latest player to return to aid the Bison in their title defence is Ciaran Long. The announcement comes as Long prepares to head to New Zealand to spend the summer playing in the NZIHL with the Canterbury Red Devils alongside James Archer before heading back to Basingstoke for 2016/17.

About to enter his 3rd consecutive season with the Herd, if Long stays fit the self proclaimed “youngest veteran in the EPL” should play his 500th regular season EPL game sometime into 2017.

Having come up and been a stand out in the Swindon junior system, Ciaran made his EPL debut in the 2005/06 season before becoming a more regular member of the Wildcats roster the following season.

After 119 regular season games in Wiltshire, Long moved changed clubs a little as he moved from Slough to Basingstoke to Manchester and the back to Slough. Everywhere he went, Long scored points but never seemed to quite settle for one reason or another. After leaving Manchester in early 2013 to head back to Slough and stayed into the following 2013/14 season.

However Slough were starting to suffer with financial issues. With Michael Wales having already made the move to the Bison, Long followed just before Christmas after being unveiled at the supporters’ club quiz in the worst attempt at disguise ever seen. Camouflage may not have been his forte but Long formed a partnership with Joe Greener that worked wonders for the Bison through the double winning season and into the championship season until Greener’s retirement from playing to move to America. Alongside winning all the EPL’s trophies with the Bison, Long won the playoffs with Slough in 2010, a second team all star in 2015 and a first team all star in 2016.

Out of his 465 games, Long has played 167 games and scored 182 points. He’s also a former GB under 18 and under 20 international winning gold, silver and bronze medals in his time with the u20 side.

The good times keep rolling for Bison fans it seems. 3 popular names back, 3 top points scorers and important pieces in the title defence all announced as returning within the space of the week. In a league where having Brits who can not only play top line minutes but put up big numbers, a 60+ point scorer like Long who was the Bison’s top scoring Brit is an important element to keep.

I am both not surprised and really surprised to see Ciaran Long back with the Bison. I’m not surprised for a variety of reasons; top British point scorer at a team that won the title, works well within the systems used by Doug Sheppard, he’s finally found a team that he can be comfortable with in a group where he’s not just close to people but is part of the core. Of course you’d want to come back to that.

I’m surprised that he’s back because at 25 years old, Ciaran Long is EIHL ready. He was arguably EIHL ready at the start of last season. OK there’s more to it than that but there’s not one of the 10 EIHL coaches that couldn’t find a spot for a point per game EPL Brit who can play on the third line somewhere in their roster? Not that the Bison fan in me is arguing with keeping a player like Long but the analyst in me looks at the long game (pun not intended) and I have to wonder about the possibilities and why they aren’t happening.

However this isn’t a piece about the ills of the EIHL or the EPL but a really good hockey player. I heard people getting frustrated at times with his play when they complain about him waiting too long for the perfect shot or trying to be too fancy but that’s part of the risk/reward with that style of play. Long’s a physical guy, he can throw a hit and even throw down when he needs to but look at the line combinations he was on part of last season. He was either feeding the puck to Jarolin for the snipe or being fed the puck by Karpov to snipe himself. He wasn’t there for brute force but finesse and skill and if you’re going to have a guy play that game then you need to let him express himself. That means taking the moments where he makes Sam Gospel’s water bottle explode with the times that it doesn’t go quite right. I think it’s an acceptable trade off.

Actually, you know what?

Long_bottle_explode

Yes. That’s nice.

Welcome back, Ciaran and enjoy New Zealand.

You can watch Ciaran play for the Canterbury Red Devils in the NZIHL and over 40 games of the 2016 season live and free at www.nzihl.tv

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