Apart from the fact that the manager Martin Mulleady was back on the line after appealing his eight week suspension (successfully it appears), the Longford minors got a significant championship boost when they scored a slender win over Sligo in the final round of the Connacht Minor Football League at the Owenmore Gaels grounds in Collooney on Good Friday.
With a total of nine competitive games played between the Leinster League (4) and the Connacht League (5) in the build-up to the Leinster Championship first round clash against Meath at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday next (throw-in 3pm), a lot of preparation has been put in and the stage is now set for the match that really matters.
While Meath scored a comprehensive 1-16 to 0-8 win when the counties met in the recent Leinster League semi-final, Longford were without a few players on that occasion and will be quietly confident of springing a surprise in the championship with the aid of home advantage.
Should they fail to get the better of Meath, there will be a second chance for Longford in the qualifiers involving the six first round losers and a probable away game against Kilkenny which is scheduled for Wednesday April 25th. Kilkenny have no chance of causing a major upset against Offaly in the first round proper and Longford (should they lose to Meath) will be strongly fancied to make progress through the back door.
In the victory over Sligo on Good Friday, Martin Mulleady’s side managed to turn things around in the second half with a goal from Ciaran Mallon paving the way for their success. Sligo hit three long range unanswered points in their first quarter before Longford engineered their first goal. Ciaran Mallon’s quickly taken free released David McGivney into space and the Mullinalaghta lad easily evaded his marker on his way to finding the back of the net. Longford ended up trailing by two points at the break as Sligo regained the upper hand but the visitors improved in the second half with a couple of well-taken frees from Ciaran Mallon keeping them in contention. Mallon then scored a decisive goal in the 44th minute, connecting with the rebound after a cracking shot by Brian Walsh was somehow saved.
Growing in stature, Longford extended their lead to four points with five minutes remaining when team captain Ross McNerney scored the third goal and while Sligo responded with a goal through Ciaran O’Connor near the end, time ran out for the home county with just the minimum of margins separating the sides at the final whistle.
LONGFORD: Colm Farrell (Longford Slashers); John Gill (Kenagh), Cian Farrelly (Killoe), Martin Mulligan (Colmcille); Gary Connell (Drumlish), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels), Liam Sullivan (Granard/Ballymore); Jason Earley (Northern Gaels), Timmy Jackson (Granard/Ballymore); Brian Walsh (Longford Slashers), Liam Connerton (Rathcline, 0-1), David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 1-0); Ross McNerney (Colmcille, 1-0), Killian Farrell (Ardagh, 0-1, free), Ciaran Mallon (Granard/Ballymore, 1-4, 3 frees). Subs:- Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers) for J Earley (45 mins); Paddy Kiernan (Killoe) for B Walsh (54 mins); Patrick Farrell (Carrick Sarsfields) for G Connell (57 mins); Seamus McCormack (Killoe) for L Connerton (61 mins).