While Longford crashed against Clare at Cusack Park in Ennis on Sunday last in suffering a first defeat in Division 4 of the National Football League this season, results elsewhere means that they are still on course for promotion and that target will be achieved providing they win their remaining fixtures at home to Leitrim and Carlow.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION FOUR - Clare 1-7, Longford 0-8
Roscommon, who will make an immediate return to Division 3, done Longford a big favour by beating Wicklow at Aughrim on Sunday last and while Glenn Ryan’s side are apparently in a good position to clinch the second promotion place they will need to improve greatly on a very poor performance against Clare to get back on the winning trail in the local derby against Leitrim at Pearse Park on Sunday next.
As it stands at the moment both Leitrim and Carlow are still in contention for promotion and all of a sudden Longford are a facing a tough run-in after slipping up against Clare. The cause was certainly not helped by bad finishing in front of a small crowd at Cusack Park with the visitors guilty of kicking a total of 15 wides during the course of the game and two clear-cut goal chances were also squandered in the first half.
And to make matters worse midfielder Bernard McElvaney was forced to retire injured in the final quarter of the contest and could be out of action for the remainder of the league campaign. There was some good news for Longford as Francis McGee returned from a long injury absence (last September to be precise) when coming on ten minutes into the second half while also back is Kevin Mulligan who was introduced late in the game.
Clare scored the crucial only goal in the third minute of first half stoppage time with impressive midfielder Gary Brennan getting the vital touch to flick a high ball in past opposing keeper Damien Sheridan and that left the home side in a fairly comfortable 1-6 to 0-4 lead at the break. It proved to be a serious setback for Longford and while they continued to create scoring chances in the second half all they could manage was another four points.
Most of the damage was done in the first half and while the sides were on level terms, 0-4 to 0-4, with 25 minutes gone on the clock Paul Barden then fumbled a glorious opportunity of a goal when letting the ball slip from his grasp in front of the posts after he was put through by Donal McElligott.
That was a very lucky escape for Clare who survived another close call in the 33rd minute when the unmarked Niall Mulligan flicked the ball into the sidenetting from a few yards out and nothing really went right for Longford on this occasion, much to the frustration of the supporters who made the trip to Ennis on Sunday last.
While Gary Brennan (wearing the No. 14 jersey but who lined-out at midfield) was the best player on the pitch by a considerable distance, corner-forward David Tubridy posed a lot of problems in the first half with five points to his credit (three frees) with Brennan also shooting over the bar.
Longford had to wait until the 11th minute for their opening score when Sean McCormack converted a free and then Niall Mulligan was on target with a good effort. Another couple of points followed from McCormack, the second of which was a cracking strike from play in the 25th minute, but the physically stronger Clare team finished the first half well to register 1-2 without reply.
The points were fired over by the accurate Tubridy, a well struck free and a terrific effort from a very tight angle in the 35th minute, and then came the Clare goal just before the half-time whistle which left Longford facing a real uphill battle on the changeover.
As it turned out, Clare only succeeded in getting a solitary score in the second half when David Tubridy converted another free in the 46th minute but it was enough to consolidate their grip on the game as the score shy Longford attack continued to press the self destruct button.
Sean McCormack converted a free in the 40th minute and while the gap was gradually closed with further points from Francis McGee (a fine strike in the 46th minute) and a brace by chief marksman McCormack (both from play in the 48th and 62nd minutes), that was as good as it got for Longford who will want to forget this game in a hurry.
The wides continued to mount up and even in the five minutes of stoppage time there was still a chance of salvaging at least a draw with Clare reduced to 14 players after corner-forward Alan Clohessy was sent-off for a second yellow card offence but there was no end to the dismal Longford shooting which cost them their unbeaten record in the league.
CLARE: Joe Hayes; Kevin Hartnett, Barry Duggan, Marty McMahon; Lawrence Healy, Gordon Kelly, Shane McNeilis; Cathal O’Connor, Gary Brennan (1-1, point from free); Mark Tubridy, John Hayes, Michael Foran; Alan Clohessy, Niall Browne, David Tubridy (0-6, four frees).
Subs:- Shane Brennan for C O’Connor (injured, 18 mins); Enda Lyons for M Foran (34 mins); Ger Quinlan for E Lyons (47 mins); Darragh Blake for John Hayes (56 mins); Rory Donnelly for M Tubridy (64 mins).
LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan (Dromard); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Declan Reilly (Colmcille); Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta), Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard), Noel Farrell (Colmcille); Martin Brady (Sean Connolly’s), Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore); David Barden (Clonguish), Paul Barden (Clonguish), Niall Mulligan (Longford Slashers, 0-1); Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta), Paddy Dowd (Clonguish), Sean McCormack (Killoe, 0-6, three frees).
Subs:- Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes) for P Dowd (34 mins); Francis McGee (Dromard, 0-1) for N Mulligan (45 mins); Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon) for B McElvaney (injured, 56 mins); Peter Foy (Cashel) for D Masterson (57 mins); Kevin Mulligan (Mullinalaghta) for D McElligott (70 mins).
Referee: Liam Devaney (Mayo).