In a dramatic finish to a tight contest at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday last, Robbie Smyth fired over a last gasp winning point for
Abbeylara in the Under 21 ‘B’ Football Final.
It was a shattering blow for Longford Slashers, particularly as there appeared to be an illegal pass in the move that led to the title clincher score in the third minute of stoppage time, but there was no whistle from referee Tony Gaffney for a free out as Abbeylara emerged victorious.
Played in front of a sparse attendance of around 100 spectators who braved a bitterly cold day to witness the final football game of the Longford GAA year, it must be said that Abbeylara were the better team with Conor Berry particularly impressive.
Other key players Robbie Smyth (winner of the man-of-the-match award) and Nigel Rabbitte also played leading roles in the slender success, clearly reflected in the fact that the talented trio clocked up 2-6 between them in accounting for all but two points of Abbeylara’s total tally.
Slashers (minus the services of the injured Robbie Clarke) certainly gave it their best shot and while lively corner-forward Andrew Kelly figured prominently to score 2-1 in keeping his side in contention, Abbeylara generally had the edge and done just enough to get across the line.
It took a fine save by excellent Slashers keeper Daniel Doherty to keep out a Nigel Rabbitte penalty in the 7th minute but soon after the same Abbeylara player raced clean through to get a cracking goal for the opening score of the game.
It was a clinical finish by Rabbitte and a couple of minutes later a long range kick from Conor Berry was allowed hop over the bar. But back came Slashers with a point and a goal from Andrew Kelly in quick succession with Sean Clarke punishing a wayward Abbeylara pass in creating the second score as the ball ended up in the back of the net in the 16th minute.
Both sides were guilty of squandering several chances throughout the first half and it was still all square until Conor Berry converted a free in stoppage time to leave Abbeylara leading by 1-2 to 1-1 at the break.
Slashers made a great start to a most entertaining second half as Andrew Kelly cut in from the right to score his second goal and then Daniel Doherty produced a brilliant save at the other end to stop a goalbound shot from Robbie Smyth.
But with four minutes gone on the changeover a close range shot from Nigel Rabbitte found the corner of the net in off the upright to put Abbeylara back in front - only for Slashers to recover quickly from conceding another goal.
The townies went on to enjoy a great spell which yielded three points on the trot through Colm Farrell (two fine efforts from play) and Niall Kelly (free) in the space of a few minutes and that was really putting it up to Abbeylara who were denied again by Slashers keeper Daniel Doherty who stopped another goal attempt from Robbie Smyth in the 42nd minute.
But the north Longford side did not panic and proceeded to score four points between the 43rd and 50th minutes - a brace from Robbie Smyth (play and free) with Conor Berry (a terrific strike from a tight angle) and Anthony O’Reilly also on target. During this crucial period of the game Slashers had a goal attempt well saved by the opposing keeper Killian Gallagher.
Abbeylara were now 2-6 to 2-4 in front but Slashers, spurred on by the influential figure of Andrew Dalton around the middle of the field, were back on level terms by the final minute of normal time thanks to three fine points from Cian Kavanagh, substitute Kevin Finnan and Brian Walsh.
In between, Abbeylara defender Russell Brady surged forward to fire over a great score and extra-time was looming as Slashers gave the ball away in their search for the winning score, which eventually materialised when Robbie Smyth kept his composure to shoot over the bar.
ABBEYLARA: Killian Gallagher; Cian Brady, Anthony McBrien; Peter Brady, Michael McHugh, Russell Brady (0-1); Robbie Smyth (0-3, one free), Barry McKiernan; Conor Berry (0-3, one free), Nigel Rabbitte (2-0), Cathal Lynch; Anthony O’Reilly (0-1), Dan Masterson.
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Daniel Doherty; Shane Rogers, Adrian Duffy; Liam Barry, Shane O’Connell, Cian Kavanagh (0-1); Andrew Dalton, Brian Walsh (0-1); Sean Clarke, Colm Farrell (0-2), Niall Kelly (0-1, free); Ruairi Clarke, Andrew Kelly (2-1).
Subs:- Kevin Finnan (0-1) for N Kelly (50 mins); Daniel Kirby for R Clarke (55 mins).
Referee: Tony Gaffney (Mostrim).