The reigning Hastings Cup champions Longford suffered a setback in the opening round of the 2014 Under 21 Football Tournament when a couple of crucial goals in quick succession put Mayo in firm control at Emmet Park, Killoe on Saturday last.
Longford were leading 0-6 to 0-5 before the visitors were awarded a penalty in the 19th minute after Cian Farrelly was penalised for a foot block. Mayo corner-forward James Shaughnessy looked all set to finish the ball to the net from point-blank range, only to be impeded by the Longford defender, and Adam Gallagher made no mistake from the penalty.
Impressive centre-half-forward Gallagher was a constant threat, particularly in the first half when he clocked up 1-4, and the Mayo dangerman also created the move that led to the soft second goal scored by Evan Regan in the 21st minute.
Longford ended up trailing by 2-7 to 0-8 at the break, with six well struck points (two frees) from Robbie Smyth keeping the home county in some sort of contention with James McGivney (also making a big impact) and Andrew Dalton the others to get their names on the scoresheet.
Smyth was a major threat in the Longford attack and went close to scoring a badly needed goal when blasting the ball over the bar in the 38th minute. But the Abbeylara sharpshooter then pressed the self destruct button when getting sent-off a couple of minutes later, receiving a black card after remonstrating with Westmeath referee Niall Ward, and Smyth was subsequently replaced by Cillian Lynn.
The new rule meant that Smyth, after showing dissent, was banished to the sideline for the remainder of the game and while it was always going to be a struggle thereafter, Longford did enjoy a fair amount of possession but were guilty of some very poor finishing.
Having said that, the superior Mayo side were able to step up another gear when it was needed and they added another seven points to their tally in the second half. Right-half-back Sean Regan capped a powerful display when he surged forward to get his name on the scoresheet in the 41st minute while the other three Longford points came from James McGivney (two frees) and substitute Liam Sullivan.
The management team of Jack Sheedy, Frank McNamee and Liam Belton will be hoping for a more favourable result when the U-21 squad travel to take on Offaly in Round 2 of the Hastings Cup on Saturday next as the preparations continue for the Leinster Championship first round clash against Westmeath on February 19th.
LONGFORD: Gareth Higgins (Carrickedmond); Brian Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels), Andrew Farrell (Cashel), Cian Farrelly (Killoe); Cormac Hughes (Colmcille), Stephen McLoughlin (Clonguish), Shane Clarke (Killoe); Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers, 0-1), Fergal Sheridan (Colmcille); Rory Connor (Kenagh), Ross McNerney (Dromard), Liam Connerton (Rathcline); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-7, two frees), Barry McKeon (Colmcille), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta, 0-3, two frees).
Subs:- Mattie Gorman (Ballymore) for R Connor (half-time); Anthony McBrien (Abbeylara) for C Hughes (half-time); Cillian Lynn (Mostrim) for R Smyth (black card, 40 mins); Podge Gill (Fr. Manning Gaels) for F Sheridan (50 mins); Liam Sullivan (Granard, 0-1) for C Farrelly (57 mins); Conor Shields (Clonguish) for B McKeon (57 mins).
MAYO: Marcus Moylett; Ger McLoughlin, Liam Ketterick, Aidan Butler; Sean Regan (0-1), Stephen Coen, Liam Burke; Diarmuid O’Connor (brother of senior star Cillian O’Connor), Gareth O’Donnell; Anthony Jordan (0-2), Adam Gallagher (1-5, goal from penalty, two points from frees), Ronan Neary (0-2); James Shaughnessy (0-1), Evan Regan (1-1, point from free), Kevin Gibbons.
Subs:- Kevin Lynch for G McLoughlin (26 mins); Eoin Collins for A Butler (half-time), David McHale for E Regan (half-time); Brian Heneghan (0-2) for J Shaughnessy (half-time); Eoin Jordan for D O’Connor (56 mins).
Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath).