An impressive display of free-taking by Colin Smith guided Longford Slashers into the quarter-finals of the senior football championship as the title holders eventually got the better of Fr. Manning Gaels in this group 1 clash at Emmet Park in Killoe on Friday evening last.
It wasn’t a great performance by Slashers (who were without a few regulars) but at times they did show glimpses of just how good they can be when they settle down to play constructive football. The sky-blues first half display was littered with mistakes allied to poor finishing as they failed to convert their superiority on the scoreboard.
The second half was a much improved performance from the townies. Smith (with a total of eight points to his credit) was in fine scoring form while Trevor Clendenning, who switched places with wing-back Ruairi Barrins at the break, did a great job in the defence.
Fr. Manning Gaels had already booked their place in the quarter-finals the previous weekend but will feel disappointed with their second half performance as they only scored one point.
The Gaels made the better start to the game to register three points in a row through Diarmuid Cooney (2) and wing back Emmet Collum and Slashers had to wait until the 10th minute to open their account – Adrian Murphy shooting over the bar.
Gaels keeper Paddy Collum came to the rescue in the 12th minute in making a fine save from Philip Dobson before the Drumlish/Ballinamuck side stretched their lead to four points with further scores from Emmet Collum and David Cassidy.
Slashers continued to kick a number of bad wides and their second score of the game eventually materialised in the 21st minute when Adrian Murphy was on target again. Two minutes later they had a penalty claim turned down by referee John Bannon after what appeared to be a foot block on Clendenning’s goalbound shot.
Colin Smith got his first score when converting a free in the 28th minute as Slashers trailed by 0-5 to 0-3 at the break but their management team made a few positional changes at the break which made the desired impact.
A bright start to the second half yielded a fine point from play by Colin Smith and then Martin Nevin landed a fantastic score before another free from the boot of Smith in the 42nd minute left Slashers in front for the first time in the game.
While a James Noonan point put Fr. Manning Gaels back on level terms, they failed to register another score during the remainder of the game.
Although Slashers regained the upper hand with a couple of frees in quick succession from Colin Smith, it took a timely interception from Trevor Clendenning to prevent the Gaels from finding the back of the net in the 50th minute. Darren Farrelly played the ball into John Fitzpatrick who went rushing through on goals but he was dispossessed by Clendenning who done well to avert this dangerous situation.
The accurate Colin Smith fired over a further three scores (one excellent effort from play) in the final few minutes to leave the county champions in a fairly comfortable position at the final whistle but there is still plenty of room for improvement in their quest to retain the coveted Connolly Cup.
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Paddy McKeon; Sean Flynn, Barry Gilleran, Gareth Ghee; Ruairi Barrins, Dermot Brady, Conor Clarke; Niall Mulligan, David Sheridan; Adrian Murphy (0-2), Colin Smith (0-8, six frees), Trevor Clendenning; Stephen Phillips, Martin Nevin (0-1), Philip Dobson.
Subs:- Paul Devine for C Clarke (58 mins); Thomas O’Rourke for S Flynn (59 mins).
FR. MANNING GAELS: Paddy Collum; John Paul Farrelly, Cian Brady, Mark Duffy; Emmet Collum (0-2), Fergal Reilly, Sean Diffley; Johnny Kane, David Hannify; Padraig Gill, Diarmuid Cooney (0-2), Darren Farrelly; David Cassidy (0-1), John Fitzpatrick, James Noonan (0-1).
Subs:- David Collum for S Diffley (39 mins); Pete Collum for J Noonan (56 mins); Sean Whelan for J Fitzpatrick (58 mins); Michael Mulleady for P Gill (58 mins).
Referee: John Bannon (Legan Sarsfields).