It took Longford Slashers quite some time to assert their superiority over Rathcline in the opening round of the All County Football League Division 1 at the Clonbonny grounds on Saturday evening last but the county champions struck the killer blow with a goal from Martin Nevin just before the break.
After Colin Smith was fouled in his attempt to find the back of the net, referee Stephen Tierney showed no hesitation in awarding a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time and Nevin made no mistake from the spot kick to leave the visitors in a comfortable 1-6 to 0-3 lead going into the second half.
The impressive Nevin (who ended up with 1-4 to his credit) did not start but was brought on with only five minutes gone on the clock, after the unfortunate Stephen Phillips was forced to retire injured, while midfielder David Sheridan and key defenders Dermot Brady and Barry Gilleran also played particularly well for Slashers whose most notable absentee was Paul Kelly.
Rathcline, who have lost the services of Shane Carroll following his transfer to Lucan Sarsfields, are currently coached by Dromard clubman Enda Macken and will be hoping to make a big impact in the Intermediate Championship this season.
Slashers, on the other hand, will surely make a strong challenge to retain the coveted Connolly Cup for the third year in a row with influential manager Denis Connerton back in charge for another crack at the county senior title and his squad has been strengthened by the return of Michael Brady from Australia.
Rathcline clubman Connerton, returning to familiar surroundings, saw his Slashers side struggle to gain control and with 23 minutes elapsed the sky-blues had to be content with a slender 0-3 to 0-2 lead with their scores coming from Colin Smith and Martin Nevin (2).
Padraig Shanley registered both points for Rathcline (free and play) but Slashers then increased their advantage with three further scores through Nevin, Conor Clarke and Smith (free) in the closing stages of the first half.
Conor Casey replied for Rathcline before the crucial penalty goal materialised deep into stoppage time. Although the home side made a bright start to the second half with James Hanley going close to scoring a badly needed goal, only to be denied by a timely block by Dermot Brady, Slashers then stepped up another gear to pull right away.
Despite missing many chances, the townies still managed to add another six points to their tally through Martin Nevin (2), Trevor Clendenning, Dermot Brady, Colin Smith and substitute Martin Tarmey and it took a brilliant point-blank save by the opposing keeper David Rooney to prevent the dangerman Nevin from scoring a second goal in the 46th minute.
Rathcline battled it out to the bitter end and their perseverance was rewarded with a couple of consolation points from Shane Casserly (51 mins) and Kevin Chapman (55 mins).
RATHCLINE: David Rooney; Blaine Fallon, Shane Donoghue, Anthony Farrell; Kevin Chapman (0-1), Michael Hanley, James Carroll; Derek Casserly, Michael Morrissey; Conor Casey (0-1), Aaron Madden, Mel Shanley; Shane Casserly (0-1), Padraig Shanley (0-2, one free), James Hanley.
Subs:- Rory Donnellan for A Farrell (44 mins); James Hilton for J Hanley (56 mins); Fiachra Beirne for M Shanley (56 mins).
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Paddy McKeon; Ruairi Barrins, Barry Gilleran, Gareth Ghee; Sean Flynn, Dermot Brady (0-1), Peter Brady; Michael Brady, David Sheridan; Brian Farrell, Colin Smith (0-3, one free), Conor Clarke (0-2); Stephen Phillips, Niall Mulligan, Trevor Clendenning (0-1).
Subs:- Martin Nevin (1-4, goal from penalty) for S Phillips (injured, 5 mins); Philip Dobson for N Mulligan (36 mins); Martin Tarmey (0-1) for B Farrell (51 mins); Paul Devine for R Barrins (51 mins).
Referee: Stephen Tierney (Mostrim).