Eoin Donnellan scored 1-10 as the Longford hurlers warmed up for the National League Division 3B Final against Warwickshire at Rathoath on Saturday next with a most emphatic win over a poor Sligo side at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.
With Longford’s place already secured in the league title decider prior to this rearranged fixture, Ray Gavin decided to give a number of young players a chance to impress and they didn’t let their manager down. Paul Leonard did well at corner back, wing-back Stephen Walsh got a point while Reuben Murray – younger brother of Karl – scored 1-1.
Gavin was delighted with the performances of those players: “We made changes; we have young lads training with us all year and they deserved to play a National Hurling League game. Chaps needed to be rewarded. The lads will learn from that. For the development of those lads for the future of Longford hurling, this has to be good for them.”
The display on Saturday last certainly gives Gavin some options when he decides on his first fifteen for the final. “There is nothing nailed down yet for the starting team in the promotion battle against Warwickshire.”
There was a minute’s silence before the Sligo game for Tony Corcoran, father of players Paddy and Ciaran, who passed away recently. Longford dominated from start to finish and had opened up a six point lead by the 8th minute after John Mulhern got the first goal.
Reuben Murray scored the second goal in the 24th minute and in first half stoppage time Cathal Mullane got a third to leave Longford in a very commanding 3-10 to 0-5 lead at the break.
The home county didn’t let up on the scoring in the second half with Eoin Donnellan getting a fourth goal in the 58th minute while Rory Brennan hit over a few consolation points for Sligo.
Longford substitute Jamie Rosney added two fantastic long range points while Karl Murray scored a wonderful point from a sideline cut as the rampant midlanders ran out winners by the landslide margin of 23 points.
But Ray Gavin isn’t getting carried away by the result. “We cannot afford to be complacent against Warwickshire. Both myself and Paddy (Walsh) have been around the block and we lost more finals than we won. We will take nothing for granted but the lads have a belief there and know they are good enough.”
Having won their three games in Division 3B and finishing top of the table, Longford could miss out on promotion if they fail to beat Warwickshire. That is the realisation for them.
Gavin said: “It is a realistic fear. We played Warwickshire here and we beat them by five points. We got a goal with the last puck of the game. Warwickshire will think they can win the final. Who knows what will happen on Saturday. It’s championship hurling for Longford from here on in and we have to win every game if we can.”
With Longford now competing in the Nicky Rackard Cup their manager knows how important it is for his side to be playing in a higher division.
“We have to get up into Division 3A to be really able to compete in the Nicky Rackard Cup. We should be in it but we cannot get carried away. We just have to take it one game at a time. I would be hopeful that we can win the league final on Saturday,” concluded Gavin.
LONGFORD: Paddy Cullen; Gerard Moore, Benny Stakem, Paul Leonard; Karl Murray (0-2, 1 free), Conor Flanagan, Stephen Farrell (0-1); Kevin Mealiff (0-1), Paul Barden jnr; Cathal Mullane (1-1), Martin Coyle (0-1), Luke Kelly; Eoin Donnellan (1-10, 5 frees), John Mulhern (1-1), Reuben Murray (1-1).
Subs:- Kealan Cox for M Coyle (injured, 25 mins); Jamie Rosney (0-2) for L Kelly (injured, 32 mins); Eoghan Kavanagh for P Leonard (46 mins); Dermot Kiernan for E Donnellan (59 mins); Conor Gallagher for C Mullane (60 mins).
SLIGO: Sean Hayes; Ronan Redmond, Tom Brennan, Bernard Feeney; Ethan McGowan, Jamie Kenny, Niall McDermott; Aidan Morrison, G Cadden (0-1); Peadar Leonard, Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch (0-1, free), Gary Waldron (0-1); Rory Brennan (0-5, 3 frees), Keith Raymond (0-1, free), Gary Gaughan.
Subs:- Danny Keown for G Cadden (half-time); Joe Moran for B Feeney (65 mins); Tony O’Kelly for G O’Kelly-Lynch (65 mins).
Referee: Alan Nash (Derry).