Backboned by the bulk of the squad that produced a magnificent achievement to win the Leinster Minor Football Championship title three years ago, the current Longford U-21s obviously have a lot of potential and they made a great start to the new season with a most emphatic win in the Hastings Cup Round 1 game played in front of a good crowd at Pairc Chiaran in Cashel on Saturday last.
Rampant Longford rocked Roscommon to win by the wide margin of 13 points and will clinch their place in the Hastings Cup Final should they succeed in beating Wicklow (newcomers to the competition) in another home game on Saturday next while Cavan, Leitrim and Offaly are the counties competing in the other group.
Longford manager Eugene McCormack (Carrickedmond) watched his side shoot some excellent scores to establish a commanding 0-8 to 0-1 lead at the break, although they were fortunate not to concede a goal in the 10th minute when Roscommon full-forward Colin Compton was just off target with a cracking shot from close range.
Robbie Smyth (free and play) fired over the first couple of points and further fine efforts followed from Rory Connor, Padraig McCormack and Daniel Mimnagh as Longford led by 0-5 to 0-0 midway through the first half. Roscommon had to wait until the 22nd minute for their opening score, from a ‘45’ converted by Finbarr Cregg, but Longford regained the upper hand to register three more points through Mark Hughes, Barry McKeon (a terrific strike) and Robbie Smyth (free) and were in a strong position at the break.
Whatever hopes Roscommon had of salvaging the situation were well and duly dashed as Longford continued to dominate in adding another 1-2 to their tally in the early stages of the second half. The points were fired over by Mark Hughes and Barry McKeon and Hughes (after receiving the perfect pass from Daniel Mimnagh) produced a classy finish to find the back of the net with five minutes gone on the changeover.
Demoralised Roscommon eventually got their second score when substitute Donie Smith converted a free in the 44th minute and their tale of woe was complete when corner-back Ross Timothy suffered the misfortune of deflecting the ball into his own net in the 48th minute after intercepting a Mark Hughes pass that was intended for Robbie Smyth.
Longford could afford the luxury of bringing on four substitutes in the space of a few minutes with Barry McKeon landing the final point for the home county in the 52nd minute and Roscommon had to be content with a couple of consolation scores from Donie Smith (free) and Ciaran Murtagh.
Ballyleague lad Murtagh got the losers only score from play in the final minute of normal time, although the visitors went close to grabbing a late goal when alert Longford defender Ronan Keogh cleared the ball off the line.
Particularly impressive for the winners in the build-up to the Leinster U-21 Championship clash (midweek floodlit fixture) away to Dublin or Carlow in early March was Padraig McCormack, who was rock solid at centre-half-back, while others to figure prominently in a fine team effort were hard working midfielder James McGivney and slick forwards Mark Hughes, Barry McKeon, Daniel Mimnagh and Robbie Smyth.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels); Ronan Keogh (Killoe Young Emmets), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond), Cian Farrelly (Killoe Young Emmets); Darren Farrelly (Fr. Manning Gaels), Padraig McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-1), Diarmuid Cooney (Fr. Manning Gaels); James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s), Dylan Quinn (Fr. Manning Gaels); Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-1), Barry McKeon (Colmcille, 0-3), Rory Connor (Kenagh, 0-1); Cillian Lynn (Mostrim), Mark Hughes (Killoe Young Emmets, 1-2), Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-3, two frees).
Subs:- Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers) for C Lynn (28 mins); Conor Clarke (Longford Slashers) for D Farrelly (47 mins); Vinny Nally (Granard St. Mary’s) for C Farrelly (49 mins); Shane Donoghue (Rathcline) for D Cooney (50 mins); Liam Connerton (Rathcline) for R Connor (51 mins).
ROSCOMMON: Colm Lavin; Ross Timothy, Darragh Egan, David Murray; Gary Patterson, Maurice Connaughton, David McDermott; Fintan Kelly, John McManus; Finbarr Cregg (0-1, ‘45’), Caoileann Fitzmaurice, Fintan Sweeney; Christopher Dineen, Colin Compton, Ciaran Murtagh (0-1).
Subs:- Conor Daly for D McDermott (half-time); Cian Connolly for C Fitzmaurice (half-time); Donie Smith (0-2, frees) for C Dineen (38 mins); Emmet Kenny for F Sweeney (49 mins).
Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath).