The Longford U-16 footballers continued their impressive unbeaten run in the Fr. Manning Cup when they scored a slender win over Sligo in Round 3 at Allen Park on Wednesday evening last and are now in pole position to qualify for the tournament final with two remaining group fixtures away to Offaly and Roscommon.
Longford are scheduled to take on Offaly at O’Connor Park , Tullamore this Thursday evening (throw-in 7.30pm) and will be strongly fancied to register a fourth victory in a row on the basis that the faithful county were hammered by Sligo who are a useful side, to say the least, with a real quality attacker in centre-half-forward Ryan McManus.
McManus ended up with a total of 1-6 (three frees) and was a constant threat to the Longford defence but he was surprisingly taken off with five minutes of normal time remaining after converting a free to leave his side trailing by just the minimum of margins, 1-11 to 1-10.
Right throughout this close encounter the home county were finding it tough to overcome the stiff challenge of Sligo and their cause was certainly not helped by the absence of influential midfielder David McGivney who was unable to feature in the clash at the Clonguish grounds due to illness.
But Longford produced a strong finish that yielded points from Shane Kenny and Aidan McElligott (long range free) to clinch another win and generally showed a lot of spirit in a determined bid to come out on top.
County Minor McElligott figured prominently in the midfield battle and most impressive in attack was skillful corner-forward Rian Brady who fired over six points (four from play) during the course of this entertaining game.
Overall it was another competent team performance from a committed Longford team who played some fine football in the process of passing their most difficult test to date and they recovered from a bad start with Ryan McManus firing home a cracking goal for Sligo with just a couple of minutes gone on the clock.
After squandering at least two goal chances in the first half, Longford finally found the back of the Sligo net just before the break when effective wing back Aaron Earley surged forward to hit the target after linking up with full-forward Michael Corcoran in a slick move.
But Sligo hit back with a point from corner-forward Jason Perry deep into stoppage time to leave the sides all square at half-time, 1-5 to 1-5, and the same player showed a quick turn of foot in racing through for a clear-cut goal chance in the 25th minute but his point-blank shot was saved in fine fashion by Longford keeper Luke Meehan.
Three of the Longford points in the first half came from the always dangerous Rian Brady (two frees) with Ronan Duffy and Nigel Rabbitte also getting their names on the scoresheet while the other Sligo points were registered by Jason Perry (2), Matthew Cullen and Ryan McManus, the latter blasting the ball over the bar when a goal was there for the taking in the 16th minute.
So it must be said that Longford were rather fortunate to be on level terms at the break but they made the better start to the second half to hit the front with three points through Nigel Rabbitte, Rian Brady and Aidan McElligott.
Sligo’s solitary reply was a super point from Ryan McManus but after trailing by 1-8 to 1-6 the visitors proceeded to enjoy another dominant spell that yielded three more scores (two frees) from the impressive McManus between the 40th and 49th minutes to take the lead.
Longford were guilty of kicking a number of bad wides in the second half but they refused to panic and regained the upper hand to fire over three points in quick succession through Mark Tully (a terrific strike) and a brace from Rian Brady – his second a wonderful effort that left the home side 1-11 to 1-9 ahead.
While Sligo closed the gap with another point from McManus, Longford were in no mood to let victory slip from their grasp and those late scores from Shane Kenny and Aidan McElligott sealed another success for the confident county U-16 footballers.
LONGFORD: Luke Meehan (Northern Gaels); Eoin Higgins (Granard/Ballymore), Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish), Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s); Aaron Earley (Northern Gaels, 1-0), Darragh Gilna (Killoe), Alan Sorohan (Clonguish); Shane Kenny (Rathcline, 0-1), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels, 0-2, one free); Ronan Duffy (Clonguish, 0-1), Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels, 0-2), Mark Tully (Granard/Ballymore, 0-1); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels, 0-6, two frees), Michael Corcoran (Clonguish), Rory Sullivan (Moydow).
Sub:- Enda Macken (Colmcille) for M Corcoran (34 mins).
SLIGO: Luke Walsh; PJ Farrell, Conor Heraghty, Liam Henry; Jason Earlis, Gavin McGowan, Gerard O’Kelly Lynch; Stephen Connolly, James Conlon; Ciaran Stenson, Ryan McManus (1-6, three points from frees), Luke Nicholson; Jason Perry (0-3), Cian Kilmartin, Matthew Cullen (0-1).
Subs:- Dylan Kilgallon for J Conlon (half-time); Cian Tighe for C Stenson (50 mins); Gerard Brady for R McManus (55 mins); Aaron Clarkin for J Perry (57 mins).
Referee: Derek Moran (Leitrim).