County champions Longford Slashers overcame the handicap of losing their captain Dermot Brady in the early stages of the game to eventually beat Abbeylara by the comfortable margin of eight points in the Leader Cup semi-final at Michael Fay Park on Saturday last.
For what was unquestionably a very harsh decision by referee Derek Fahy, centre-half-back Brady was shown a straight red card following a tussle with Barry Smyth and the county defender (sent-off for the first time in his football career) will now stand suspended for the senior league title decider.
It was rough justice, to say the least, but Slashers recovered from this sickening blow to establish a comfortable 2-3 to 0-4 lead at the break with the decisive goals coming from Mark Smith (created by Trevor Clendenning) and Peter Foy (set up by Andrew Dalton) in the 19th and 23rd minutes.
That left Abbeylara facing a real uphill battle in the second half and they were denied a badly needed goal when Slashers keeper Colm Farrell produced a great save to keep out a point-blank shot from Robbie Smyth in the 40th minute.
Michael Brady scored a wonderful point in the 44th minute when he caught the ball at midfield and then went surging through to slot a well struck shot over the bar and moments later Martin Nevin was on target to leave Slashers leading by 2-7 to 0-5.
Abbeylara, to their credit, tried hard to get back into contention and were given a glimmer of hope when Derek Smyth fisted a goal in the 47th minute and which was followed quickly by a point from Barry Smyth.
But Slashers, playing over three quarters of the game with 14 players, then stepped up another gear to register four points on the trot through Trevor Clendenning, Peter Foy. Colin Smith (free) and Barry Gilleran to run out emphatic winners in the finish and Abbeylara’s tale of woe was complete when Jason Kelly was sent-off for a second yellow card offence in the 55th minute.
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Colm Farrell; Dominic Glennon, Barry Gilleran (0-1), Gareth Ghee; Peter Brady, Dermot Brady, Marc Diffley; Niall Mulligan (0-1), Michael Brady (0-1); Trevor Clendenning (0-1), Colin Smith (0-3, all frees), Andrew Dalton; Mark Smith (1-1, point from free), Peter Foy (1-2), Martin Nevin (0-1).
Subs:- Martin Tarmey for M Brady (injured, 50 mins); Philip Dobson for M Smith (57 mins); Sean Flynn for A Dalton (58 mins); Darren Flaherty for M Nevin (60 mins); Brian Walsh for C Smith (60 mins).
ABBEYLARA: Damien O’Connor; Cormac Smyth, Colm P Smyth, Colm Dalton; James McEntire, Michael McHugh, Arthur O’Connor; Derek Smyth (1-0), Michael O’Connor; Anthony McBrien, Barry Smyth (0-2), Eamon Gallagher; Jason Kelly (0-3, one free), Fergal Battrim (0-1), Nigel Rabbitte.
Subs:- Robbie Smyth for M O’Connor (25 mins); Sean Murphy for A McBrien (40 mins); Shane Mahon for E Gallagher (43 mins).
Referee: Derek Fahy