Longford came back from the dead to keep alive their hopes of consolidating their Division 3 status in the National Football League when they staged a great comeback to eventually beat Fermanagh by a point in a remarkable game at Pearse Park on Sunday last.
It was exciting stuff, to say the least, and a big boost for manager Jack Sheedy as Longford finally ended a long losing run in the league stretching back to the narrow defeat in Division 2 away to Wexford on the first Sunday in February last year.
After losing nine games on the trot in the National League, halting the slide is a great lift for the players who showed remarkable courage to rescue the situation. Fermanagh had established a commanding nine points lead (2-5 to 0-2) after 21 minutes of play with the crucial goals coming from the Quigley brothers Sean and Seamus who were causing havoc in the full-forward-line and they ended up with 2-9 between them.
Sean smashed a cracking shot to the corner of the net in the 9th minute and when Seamus converted a penalty (Dermot Brady penalised for a foot block) in the 17th minute the writing looked on the wall for a ragged Longford side who were all over the place and in serious trouble.
The five Fermanagh points were fired over by Sean Quigley (two frees), Seamus Quigley (a brace from play) and Paul McCusker and the best Longford could do was a score apiece from Brian Farrell (7th minute) and Sean McCormack (free in the 11th minute).
Not even the most optimistic Longford supporters among the 900 plus official attendance were giving their side a chance of getting back into the game, such was the fierce pressure they were under. But the Fermanagh gallop was stopped when the game was held up for six or seven minutes following an unfortunate injury sustained by Michael Brady.
The Longford midfielder, suffering from concussion, was subsequently stretchered off and from there until the eventual half-time whistle the home county enjoyed a new lease of life which yielded 1-3 without reply.
The badly needed goal materialised in the 34th minute when a dipping shot from Mark Hughes was flicked to the net by Brian Kavanagh while the points were registered by Hughes, Michael Quinn (‘45’) and Sean McCormack (free).
Fermanagh did manage to score another point through a Sean Quigley free in the sixth minute of first half stoppage time to lead by 2-6 to 1-5 at the break and when the visitors made a flying start to the second half with a Seamus Quigley point from play things were still looking bleak for Longford.
However, Fermanagh had suffered a significant setback when one of their influential midfielders Richard O’Callaghan was sent-off after receiving a black card in the 33rd minute of the first half and Longford gradually got on top in this vital sector on the changeover.
John Keegan and substitute Kevin Diffley (who replaced Michael Brady) worked really hard to ensure a decent supply of the ball into the Longford forwards and in a glorious spell between the 39th and 61st minutes Fermanagh were outscored 0-10 to 0-1 with their lone point coming from Sean Quigley (play) in the 46th minute.
Longford played some really fine football to change the course of the game with the deadly accurate Sean McCormack playing a leading role to shoot six of the points in the second half (four frees and two from play) along with a couple of crucial scores from Paul McKeon (play and free).
Mark Hughes had started the revival when shooting over the bar with four minutes gone in the second half and another influential substitute Padraig Gill was also on target as Longford stormed into a four points lead (1-15 to 2-8) approaching the closing stages of the game.
But Fermanagh were not done for yet and two further points from Seamus Quigley (play) and Sean Quigley (free) closed the gap to ensure a very tense finish and Longford were reduced to 14 players when Brian Kavanagh was sent-off for a second yellow card offence in the 68th minute.
Kavanagh was followed to the sideline by Michael Quinn, dismissed for a black card offence in the 70th minute, before a point followed from Fermanagh substitute Brian Cox in stoppage time to leave just the minimum of margins separating the sides.
But the final whistle sounded seconds later, much to the sheer delight and relief to all involved in the Longford camp, and Jack Sheedy and his squad can now look forward with a lot more confidence to the next crunch fixture against Offaly at O’Connor Park in Tullamore on Sunday next.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara); Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara), Fergal Reilly (Fr. Manning Gaels, making his National League debut), Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s); John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s), Michael Brady (Longford Slashers); Brian Farrell (Mostrim, 0-1), Mark Hughes (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-2), Michael Quinn (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1, ‘45’); Paul McKeon (Colmcille, 0-2, one free), Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes, 1-0), Sean McCormack (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-8, six frees).
Subs:- Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon) for M Brady (injured, 29 mins); Padraig Gill (Fr. Manning Gaels, 0-1) for B Farrell (50 mins); Cian Mimnagh (Dromard) for P McKeon (65 mins); P McKeon for M Quinn (black card, 70 mins).
FERMANAGH: Thomas Treacy; John Woods. Tiernan Daly, Conor Quigley; Declan McCusker, Ryan McCluskey, Tommy McElroy; Eoin Donnelly, Richard O’Callaghan; Lee Cullen, Ryan Jones, Paul McCusker (0-1); Seamus Quigley (1-4, goal from penalty), Sean Quigley (1-5, four points from frees), Tomas Corrigan.
Subs:- Barry Mulrone for R O’Callaghan (black card, 33 mins); Eamon Maguire for T Corrigan (47 mins); Brian Cox (0-1) for C Quigley (50 mins); Aidan Breen for T Daly (61 mins); Niall Shannon for B Mulrone (65 mins).
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo).