A crucial goal from corner-forward Michael Corcoran with just a couple of minutes gone in the final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Wednesday evening of last week set up the county U-16 footballers for a comfortable victory as Longford ruled against Roscommon to regain the Fr. Manning Cup for the first time since 2001.
Played in perfect conditions, Longford were unquestionably the superior side as they captured the coveted title for the 9th time in the history of the inter-county competition which started way back in 1965 and particularly impressive in the latest triumph was the man-of-the-match award winner Rian Brady who fired over a total of seven points.
Right-corner-forward Brady, with his wide range of skills, was a constant threat to the Roscommon defence while Shane Kenny – who kicked three points - also figured most prominently for the Fr. Manning Cup champions, both at full-forward and when he moved out to midfield during the course of the second half.
Longford laid the foundations for their emphatic success at centrefield with county minors David McGivney and Aidan McElligott in almost complete control throughout the first half as their side established a decisive 1-7 to 0-4 advantage at the break while also much to the fore for the home county throughout the title decider were wing forward Nigel Rabbitte and defenders Ronan Sweeney and Aaron Earley.
The management team of John Coyle (Mostrim), Finbarr Meehan (Northern Gaels) and Tony Devlin (Clonguish) deserve a lot of credit for all their hard work in blending together such a talented squad of players that came into the final in a confident frame of mind after winning all their five games in the group stage of the tournament.
Devlin was unavoidably absent last week as he was away on holidays but Longford were never in any danger of falling at the final hurdle as they raced into a commanding 1-4 to 0-0 lead before Roscommon eventually got their opening score in the 18th minute when midfielder Tom Butler converted a free and which was quickly followed by another point from Aidan Brogan.
Michael Corcoran cut in from the left to register the goal when his shot from a tight angle deceived the Roscommon keeper Shane Mannion as the ball ended up in the back of the net and three of the early Longford points came from Rian Brady (two frees) with Shane Kenny also getting his name on the scoresheet.
Following the Roscommon rally, the sides went on to share four points with David McGivney and Rian Brady landing excellent efforts for Longford while Aidan Brogan and John Gannon were on target for the visitors who produced a strong finish to the first half.
But Longford grabbed a vital score deep into stoppage time when Shane Kenny fired over a cracking strike and his side went on to completely dominate the third quarter of the contest to put the issue well and truly beyond all doubt.
Rian Brady got the first score of the second half and a further three points followed from Shane Kenny, Michael Corcoran (who enjoyed some prominent spells) and Brady (free) to leave Longford in a clear lead, 1-11 to 0-4, before Roscommon replied in the 49th minute when substitute David Connaughton shot over the bar.
Longford hit back immediately with another sweetly struck point from Rian Brady but Roscommon battled it out to the bitter end and were denied a couple of late goals with the competent home keeper Luke Meehan producing a couple of excellent saves to keep out shots from Tom Butler and James McDonald.
Eoin Fallon landed a consolation point for the gallant losers in the 57th minute, who never really recovered from a bad start, and the future certainly looks bright for Longford football on the evidence of this promising U-16 success.
LONGFORD: Luke Meehan (Northern Gaels); Eoin Higgins (Granard/Ballymore), Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish), Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s); Aaron Earley (Northern Gaels), Darragh Gilna (Killoe), Alan Sorohan (Clonguish); David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-1), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels); Jamie King (Killoe), Barry McKiernan (Northern Gaels), Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels, 0-7, three frees), Shane Kenny (Rathcline, 0-3), Michael Corcoran (Clonguish, 1-1).
Subs:- Ronan Duffy (Clonguish) for J King (27 mins); Mark Tully (Granard/Ballymore) for E Higgins (53 mins); Sean Costello (Longford Slashers) for B McKiernan (58 mins).
ROSCOMMON: Shane Mannion; Jack Connaughton, Martin Flannery, Thomas Greene; Gerard Connaughton, Evan McGrath, James McDonald; Tom Butler (0-1, free), Ronan Rafferty; Aidan Brogan (0-2), Eoin Fallon (0-1), Daniel Malone; Noel Gately, John Gannon (0-1). Kevin Smyth.
Subs:- Cillian Bannon for E McGrath (injured, 16 mins); E McGrath for J Gannon (37 mins); David Connaughton (0-1) for A Brogan (48 mins); Jason Martin for R Rafferty (54 mins).
Referee: Ray McBrien (Leitrim).