Late Galway goal a real killer blow for Longford

Longford forward David Barden in action against Galway's Finian Hanley during the fourth round of the National Football League Division 2 on Sunday last at Pearse Park.

Desperate for a positive result after the bitter disappointment of narrow defeats against Wexford, Westmeath and Armagh, there was no change of luck for Longford who suffered the killer blow of conceding a late goal against Galway and ended up getting nothing in the fierce battle to avoid relegation in Division 2 of the National Football League.

With just two minutes of normal time remaining at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday last, the sides were all square and a draw was looking the likely outcome but Galway then found the back of the net when Paul Conroy got the vital touch to the ball after connecting with a Michael Martin free that dropped short of the posts. It must be said that the Longford keeper Damien Sheridan was caught out and he must also take some blame for the another crucial Galway goal midway through the second half.

Boosted by a brace of well-taken goals from chief marksman Sean McCormack in the early stages of the second half and with Donal McElligott shooting over the bar in the 45th minute, Longford were in a fairly comfortable four points lead (3-6 to 1-8) and managed to keep that advantage intact when defender Colm P Smyth put in a terrific tackle to stop Michael Martin creating a goal chance.

But Galway eventually got the break they badly needed in the 56th minute when a speculative high centre from Michael Martin ended up with the inrushing Eoin Concannon finishing the ball to the net from point-blank range following a misunderstanding between Michael Quinn and Damien Sheridan who failed to deal with the danger.

Moments later the commanding Galway midfielder Niall Coleman shot over the bar to level matters (3-6 to 2-9) but Longford launched an immediate counter-attack that yielded a cracking score from play in the 58th minute by Sean McCormack who clocked up a total of 2-4 in doing his best to bring the current losing streak to a halt.

But Longford failed to register another score and after they lost possession in gifting Galway the opportunity to get back on level terms through a Michael Martin point in the 61st minute, McCormack then kicked a costly free wide of the posts before disaster struck in the 68th minute when the visitors snatched the matchwinning goal.

Almost immediately wing back Gary Sice surged forward to fire over the insurance point for Galway and while Longford were unlucky not to get at least a draw, the games are running out for Glenn Ryan’s side who are now looking doomed for the drop into Division 3 – particularly with such a tough task away to promotion chasing Derry at Celtic Park on Saturday evening next, throw-in 7pm.

A defeat against Derry would almost certainly result in relegation and there is more bad news for Longford in that Paul Barden, who played in the first half of the game against Armagh the previous week, has suffered another injury setback and is ruled out for the remainder of the league campaign.

At least Declan Reilly made his return to the county colours after a lengthy absence when he was brought on in the closing stages of the crunch game against Galway and the mentors made three changes to the team on Sunday last with David Barden, Colm P Smyth and Fergal Battrim all starting on this occasion.

Smyth and Michael Quinn were much to the fore in the defence who were generally under a lot of pressure, particularly with the ongoing struggle at centrefield, while Donal McElligott played well up front in giving Sean McCormack considerable support in the quest for the vital scores.

Played in front of a few hundred spectators who braved a bitterly cold day, Longford were second best for most of the first half and were fortunate to be trailing by just a solitary point at the break (1-6 to 1-5) with David Barden providing the perfect pass that set up McElligott for the goal in the 17th minute that left the home county leading by 1-3 to 1-2 with all three points coming from Sean McCormack frees.

Michael Meehan fired home the Galway goal in the 11th minute that was created by Paul Conroy and four of their first half points were fired over by the prominent Michael Martin (two frees). Also on target were Conroy (free) and Niall Coleman to leave the visitors leading by 1-6 to 1-3 with time running out in the first half but Longford closed the gap to the minimum of margins with fine points from Colm P Smyth (32 mins) and Donal McElligott (35 mins).

With the advantage of the wind in the second half, Galway got off to a flying start with a point apiece from Michael Meehan and Eoin Concannon in the opening minute but Longford came storming back to score two goals in quick succession to really rattle the opposition.

David Barden and Donal McElligott were involved in the slick move that created the opening for Sean McCormack to find the back of the net and a second fine goal from McCormack in the 40th minute put Longford in a good position.

McElligott then fired over a cracking score to leave Longford four points ahead but they were unable to consolidate their grip on the game as Galway found a new lease of life to outscore the midlanders 2-3 to 0-1 during the remainder of this entertaining encounter.

LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan (Dromard); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara); Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-1), Michael Quinn (Killoe Young Emmets), Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s); John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s), Michael Brady (Longford Slashers); Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore), Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 1-2), Aidan Rowan (Cashel); Francis McGee (Dromard), David Barden (Clonguish), Sean McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets, 2-4, three points from frees).

Subs:- Niall Mulligan (Longford Slashers) for A Rowan (32 mins); Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon) for J Keegan (34 mins); Declan Reilly (Colmcille) for K Diffley (60 mins); Padraig McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets) for D Barden (65 mins); Peter Foy (Cashel, transferring to Longford Slashers) for M Quinn (71 mins).

GALWAY: John Egan; Johnny Duane, Finian Hanley, Gary Sweeney; Gareth Bradshaw, Gary O’Donnell, Gary Sice (0-1); Niall Coleman (0-2), Anthony Griffin; John O’Brien, Paul Conroy (1-1, point from free), Michael Boyle; Eoin Concannon (1-1), Michael Meehan (1-1), Michael Martin (0-5, two frees).

Subs:- Fionnan O Curraoin for A Griffin (43 mins); Sean Armstrong for M Boyle (48 mins); Keith Kelly for G Bradshaw (49 mins); Danny Cummins for M Meehan (58 mins); Sean Denvir for E Concannon (69 mins).

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).