After scoring a fine win over Westmeath in the opening round, the Longford U-16 side were brought crashing back down to earth as their hopes of reaching the Fr. Manning Cup title decider were shattered by Sligo in a bizarre game at Connolly Park, Collooney on Wednesday evening of last week.
At the end of normal time in the first half, Longford were actually leading by 0-5 to 0-2 with their scores coming from Shane Thompson, Ronan Healy (two excellent efforts), David McCarthy and Thomas McGann (free) and the latter was unlucky not to get a goal when he shot against the post in the 21st minute.
Sligo were guilty of some poor finishing but eventually got their scoring act together in a storming finish to the first half that yielded four points in the five minutes of stoppage time through Paddy O’Connor (two frees), Sean Carrabine and Davoren Fallon to hold a slender 0-6 to 0-5 lead at the break.
That quick swing in Sligo’s favour proved to be a decisive factor as Longford collapsed completely on the changeover and remarkably trailed by 4-8 to 0-5 with 12 minutes gone in the second half.
The home county (who has beaten Laois in the opening round) got their first goal through Liam Gaughan and the same player punished a bad mistake in the opposing defence soon after to plant the ball in the back of the net again.
Longford were reeling on the ropes and Sligo struck the killer blow with a couple of cracking goals in quick succession from corner-forward Joe McHugh to put the issue beyond all doubt.
Although in a stunned state, rattled Longford did recover briefly to snatch a couple of goals through Ruairi Harkins and Ruairi Hawkins and with Thomas McGann converting a free the gap was reduced to eight points before superior Sligo stepped up another gear to dominate the closing stages of the game at the impressive Owenmore Gaels club grounds.
Joe McHugh scored his third goal in the 50th minute and Longford’s tale of woe was complete when the same player shot to the net again in the 57th minute as rampant Sligo ended up a massive 17 points clear at the final whistle after clocking up 6-6 in the second half.
Longford (minus the services of the unavailable Mark Lyons and Michael Cahill) grabbed a consolation score when Thomas McGann fired over a free in the 52nd minute but could still make it through to the Hastings Shield Final (between the second placed teams in the two groups) if they manage to win away to Laois at the Emo grounds this Wednesday evening.
SLIGO: Cathal Jordan; Brendan Martin, Brian Mahon, Adrian Cummins (0-1); Daveron Fallon (0-1), Micky Gordon (0-1), Eamon Kilgannon; Enda O’Connell (0-1), Shane Tighe; Sean Carrabine (0-2), Paddy O’Connor (0-4, two frees), Liam Gaughan (2-1); Daire Kearns, Luke Gilmartin, Joe McHugh (4-1).
Subs:- Shane O’Grady for L Gilmartin (injured, 15 mins); Daniel Murphy for B Mahon (42 mins); Evan Farrell for A Cummins (53 mins); Shay Doherty for E O’Connell (55 mins); Niall Gardiner for S Tighe (57 mins).
LONGFORD: Conor Gallagher (Grattans); Cillian Lee (Killashee), Enda Farrell (Carrick Sarsfields), James Bracken (Killoe); Peter Lynn (Grattans), Mark McCormack (Ballymahon/Forgney), Fergal Lynch (Northern Gaels); Sean Noonan (Mostrim), Ronan Healy (Cashel, 0-2); Ruairi Harkins (Colmcille, 1-0), Joe Kelly (Ballymahon/Forgney), Ruairi Hawkins (Colmcille, 1-0); Shane Thompson (Killoe, 0-1), Thomas McGann (Kenagh, 0-3, all frees), David McCarthy (Killoe, 0-1).
Subs:- Michael Burke (Cashel) for M McCormack (37 mins); Mark Hughes (St. Vincent’s, Drumlish) for J Kelly (47 mins); Aaron McGee (St. Vincent’s, Drumlish) for F Lynch (53 mins).
Referee: Ray McBrien