A terrific point from Marc Diffley in the 58th minute clinched a hard earned win for Longford Slashers against Colmcille in the Senior Football Championship semi-final replay at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday last.
Denis Connerton has now guided the sky-blues to a fourth successive appearance in the title decider which is a great achievement, to say the least, and the Rathcline clubman and his fellow Slashers mentors were forced to bring on regular midfielder Michael Brady at the start of the second half when the going got really tough.
The powerful Brady had missed the drawn encounter the previous week due to a hand injury and his introduction proved to be a decisive factor as Slashers dug really deep to grind out a victory when it looked as though Tony McKiernan’s Colmcille were going to spring a shock at the second attempt.
There was nothing separating the sides in a scrappy game that was spoiled considerably by the wild windy conditions and Colmcille were left to rue a number of missed chances during the course of the game, kicking eight wides as compared to five for last year’s beaten finalists.
Slashers had raced into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after 11 minutes with the points coming from impressive defender Dominic Glennon, a brace from Mark Smith (free and play) with Marc Diffley also shooting over the bar. But Colmcille got right back into contention with a cracking goal from Paul McKeon in the 14th minute after he punished a mistake by the opposing keeper Colm Farrell who failed to deal with a dipping shot from Barry McKeon.
A point quickly followed from John Paul Reilly and then a key moment in the match materialised when a tremendous tackle by Dermot Brady prevented Declan Farrell from getting the ball through to the completely unmarked Paul McKeon who was poised to score a second goal in the 17th minute.
Having said that, Colmcille keeper Mark Kiernan produced a couple of excellent point-blank saves to deny Niall Mulligan and Mark Smith getting goals for Slashers in the 11th and 25th minutes respectively.
Dominic Glennon joined the attack to fire over his second point in first half stoppage time, which left the sides all square at the break (0-6 to 1-3), and it continued to be extremely tight on the changeover with the sides sharing six points which included a marvellous strike from Barry McKeon.
Slashers somehow fail to get a free when both Dermot Brady and Martin Nevin (on his way through for a probable score) were blatantly fouled in the same attack with 54 minutes gone on the clock but they eventually got the winning point when Marc Diffley slotted the ball over the bar.
There was still time for Colmcille to snatch a draw and force the game into extra-time and they were awarded a free by referee Derek Fahy in the third minute of stoppage time. But the pressure of a difficult kick proved too much for Paul McKeon as his shot dropped short and the final whistle was eventually sounded seconds later as Slashers held out to reach yet another county senior final - their sixth in eight years.
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Colm Farrell; Dominic Glennon (0-2), Barry Gilleran, Gareth Ghee; Peter Brady, Dermot Brady, Marc Diffley (0-2); Niall Mulligan, David Sheridan; Trevor Clendenning, Colin Smith (0-2), Martin Tarmey; Mark Smith (0-3, two frees), Peter Foy, Martin Nevin (0-1).
Sub:- Michael Brady for M Tarmey (half-time).
COLMCILLE: Mark Kiernan; Ciaran Brady, Noel Farrell (0-1), John McGee; Gerard Mulligan, Francis Kavanagh, Martin Mulligan; Enda Farrell, John Paul Reilly (0-1); Niall Farrelly, Declan C Reilly, Anthony Gormley; Paul McKeon (1-2, one point from free), Declan Farrell (0-1), Barry McKeon (0-1).
Subs:- Darren Mulligan for N Farrelly (injured, 20 mins); Niall Brady for E Farrell (47 mins); Fergal Sheridan for D Mulligan (53 mins); Gary Murtagh for F Kavanagh (60 mins).
Referee: Derek Fahy (Ballymore).