Currently coached by Gerry McGill, there was a lot to admire about the determined manner in which Longford really put it up to a strongly fancied Cavan side in the All-Ireland Ladies Intermediate Football Championship Group B clash at Emmet Park in Killoe on Sunday last and just two points separated the sides at the final whistle.
The Cavan goals in the first half were so crucial in the finish and while this was really a must win match for Longford after losing their opening fixture in the championship 5-14 to 1-13 away to Waterford the previous week, they are re-building after losing the services of a number of key players.
McGill, of course, was the manager of the Dublin ladies team who won the All-Ireland senior title last year and has already made a considerable difference in the short number of weeks in charge of Longford who are gradually recovering from a dismal National League Division 3 campaign in which they failed to win a game.
In fact, they were unable to field a team in a couple of league fixtures but things are apparently going well again on the evidence of this gallant display when a surprise victory could have been achieved had they managed to score at least one goal from a number of great chances with Fiona Gettings hitting the crossbar midway through the second half when Cavan held a four-point lead.
The visitors (minus the services of the suspended Donna English) inflicted most of the damage in the opening quarter of the contest to establish a comfortable 1-3 to 0-0 lead with the goal coming from midfielder Rosie Crowe who fired a first-time shot to the net with just three minutes gone in the game.
The Cavan points were registered by Ashling Doonan (2) and Brid Boylan before Fiona Gettings opened the Longford account in the 16th minute and a further four scores followed from the impressive full-forward who ended up with 0-10 to her credit (six frees) while a shot from the clean through Jacinta Brady hit the upright in her attempt for a point when a goal was on.
The Cavan net was fortunate to remain intact for a couple of those Gettings points but they produced a strong finish to the first half and after Ashling Doonan had a goal disallowed for a square infringement the dangerous full-forward converted a free. Longford then suffered a severe setback when they conceded a second goal three minutes into stoppage time as Brid Boylan latched on to a centre from Renee Murphy to direct the ball into the empty net.
That late surge left Cavan leading by 2-4 to 0-5 at the break and while Longford made a bright start to the second half with a well struck point from Fiona Gettings it took a tremendous point-blank save by the home keeper Michelle Kilkenny to deny Eilish Cornyn another goal for Cavan who went on to extend their advantage with a brace of points (free and play) from Ashling Doonan.
Longford remained in contention with a couple of frees converted by Michelle McElvaney and Fiona Gettings and McElvaney landed another brace of points (play and free) to make it very interesting indeed.
Three points (one free) from impressive substitute Bronagh Sheridan eased the pressure on Cavan but Longford kept plugging away and after Gettings fired over another free, she set up Michelle Mulvey for a glorious goal chance in the 52nd minute but the latter elected to slot the ball over the bar.
Gettings converted another couple of frees late in the game to leave just the minimum of margins separating the sides but Cavan kept their composure and clinched a very hard earned victory with a sixth point from Ashling Doonan (free) in the third minute of stoppage time.
Longford are back in action in the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship this weekend away to Westmeath and their final fixture in the group is at home to Fermanagh the following week with just a slim chance of making it through to the semi-finals.
LONGFORD: Michelle Kilkenny (Dromard); Niamh Devaney (Killoe), Elizabeth Brady (Killoe), Mairead Moore (Clonguish); Sinead Farrell (Rathcline), Sharon Treacy (Killoe), Antoinette Brady (Killoe); Jacinta Brady (Killoe), Siobhan McGowan (Clonguish); Michelle Hannify-Mulvey (Carrickedmond, 0-1), Michelle McElvaney (Ballymore, 0-3, two frees), Anne Burke (Clonguish); Orla Noonan (St. Helen’s, Drumlish), Fiona Blessington-Gettings (Ballymore, 0-10, six frees), Ailbhe McGowan (Clonguish).
Sub used:- Gemma Kenny (Mostrim) for A McGowan (45 mins).
CAVAN: Christine McCutcheon; Ciara Reilly, Grainne McGlade, Claire Kearns; Renee Murphy, Pamela Crowe, Sinead Greene; Rosie Crowe (1-0), Mona Sheridan; Clara Reilly, Eilish Cornyn, Elaine Costin; Brid Boylan (1-1), Ashling Doonan (0-6, four frees), Roisin O’Keeffe.
Subs used:- Bronagh Sheridan (0-3, one free) for E Cornyn (36 mins); Daena Clerkin for R O’Keeffe (40 mins); Ciara Gray for M Sheridan (45 mins); Ashling Traynor for E Costin (62 mins).
Referee: Gerry Carmody (Mayo).