While Longford lost out to a stronger Kildare side in the Fr. Manning Shield Final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Wednesday evening last, the U-16 footballers gave it their best shot and were actually in front by four points approaching the half-time break.
Kildare were leading 0-6 to 0-3 before Longford’s impressive centre-half-forward Thomas McGann, after kicking a point, raced through to fire home the equalising goal in the 22nd minute. David McCarthy then landed a well struck point before McGann went close to finding the back of the net again, only for his effort to be deflected out for a ‘45’ that was duly converted by Ronan Healy.
In producing a prominent performance, Joe Kelly then weaved his way through to shoot over the bar for his third point in the first half and when Rory Hawkins got his name on the scoresheet in the 27th minute that was really putting it up to a fancied Kildare outfit.
But the lilywhites came storming back to register 1-2 on the trot, the goal coming from a penalty converted by Paddy Woodgate in the 30th minute, and the same player also accounted for the two points (one free) to leave his side in front by the minimum of margins at the break, 1-8 to 1-7.
That decisive surge was very much the turning point in this entertaining encounter and after Kildare full-forward Jimmy Hyland was denied a goal when he shot against the post in the opening minute of the second half, the visitors pulled right away in adding a further 1-5 to their tally.
The killer goal materialised in the 45th minute when Hyland showed a quick turn of foot to evade the challenge of the advancing Longford keeper Conan Gallagher before planting the ball into the empty net. And when the also impressive Paddy Woodgate (who ended up with 1-7) kicked a cracking point soon after, Kildare were in a commanding 2-13 to 1-7 lead and appeared to be home and dry.
But Longford showed a lot of character in refusing to give up the fight and after shooting a few bad wides with Joe Kelly having a goal attempt (37 mins) blocked down, they eventually got their first score in the second half when Thomas McGann landed a point in the 49th minute.
The home county snatched a badly needed goal in the 53rd minute when David McCarthy shot to the back of the net, after Rory Hawkins had hit the crossbar, and Thomas McGann then converted a couple of frees to bring his personal tally to 1-4.
Now trailing by 2-13 to 2-10, Longford were right back in contention but the pressure was eased on Kildare when Paddy Woodgate shot over the bar in stoppage time. But Longford still kept plugging away and after Mark McCormack had a goal attempt deflected wide of the posts, Thomas McGann had a free blocked in his effort to find the back of the net in a frantic finish to the Fr. Manning Shield Final.
Credit to corner-back Cillian Lee, who prevented a certain Kildare goal in the first half when he was most alert to deflect the ball over the bar, and he generally had a fine game.
The main event, the Fr. Manning Cup Final, was played at Pearse Park on the same evening and resulted in a narrow one-point win for Sligo, who overcame Offaly 1-13 to 0-15.
LONGFORD: Conor Gallagher (Grattans); Cillian Lee (Killashee), Enda Farrell (Carrick Sarsfields), James Bracken (Killoe); Peter Lynn (Grattans), Mark McCormack (Ballymahon/Forgney), Daniel McHugh (Clonguish); Joe Kelly (Ballymahon/Forgney, 0-3), Ronan Healy (Cashel, 0-1, ‘45); Ruairi Harkins (Colmcille), Thomas McGann (Kenagh, 1-4, two frees), David McCarthy (Killoe, 1-1); Rory Hawkins (Colmcille, 0-1), Shane Thompson (Killoe), Mark Hughes (St. Vincent’s, Drumlish).
Subs:- Clayton Finn (Grattans) for S Thompson (injured, 39 mins); Fergal Lynch (Northern Gaels) for R Harkins (45 mins).
KILDARE: Sean Brennan; Sean Eves, Mark Lawlor, Kevin Gorman; Daniel O’Sullivan, Adam Stynes, Kevin Byrne; Niall Brennan (0-2), Alan Carney; Paddy Woodgate (1-7, two frees, goal from penalty), Cian Costigan (0-1, free), Cian Duke (0-1); Niall Murphy (0-1), Jimmy Hyland (1-1), Dara Merriman (0-1).
Subs:- Paddy Kelly for A Stynes (injured, 8 mins); Aaron Webb for A Carney (injured, 28 mins); A Stynes for C Duke (34 mins); Luke Lawless for D O’Sullivan (36 mins).
Referee: Marty Parker (Roscommon).