Any hopes Fr. Manning Gaels had of springing a surprise against Longford Slashers in the opening round of the Senior Football Championship were shattered when the title holders scored three goals in the first half during the course of a comprehensive win at Emmet Park, Killoe on Saturday evening last.
In overcoming the double injury setback of losing Trevor Clendenning (hamstring) and Michael Brady (broken jaw), Slashers used all their vast experience to consolidate a commanding 3-4 to 0-4 lead at the break despite the determined efforts of the Drumlish/Ballinamuck side on the changeover.
But the Gaels were guilty of some poor finishing throughout the game, along with making costly mistakes, and their generally young team have a lot to learn in the hope of building on the U-21 ‘A’ Championship title triumph last year.
Slashers were strong in defence, with Peter Foy and Barry Gilleran particularly prominent, while most of the damage further outfield was inflicted by Niall Mulligan who drove his way through on quite a few occasions to create scoring chances and also fired home a couple of crucial goals in the first half.
Mulligan planted the ball in the back of the Fr. Manning Gaels net in the 12th minute to leave Slashers leading by 1-2 to 0-1, the points coming from Martin Nevin and Mulligan, and when the always dangerous Nevin found the space to shoot the second goal in the 15th minute the outcome was never in any doubt.
Things got even worse for the Gaels when they conceded a third goal in the 22nd minute as Mulligan hit the target again and that was game, set and match to the reigning county champions who also registered another two points in the first half - a brace from Colin Smith (play and free).
It must be said that Gaels defender Cian Brady was most fortunate to get away with just a yellow card (a poor decision by referee Michael Flynn) after his heavy challenge on Michael Brady. The Slashers midfielder was forced to retire after sustaining a nasty injury before the break and it was later revealed that his jaw was broken in two places, which will rule Brady out of action for several weeks and possibly the rest of the season.
A brace from Padraig Gill (play and free), James Noonan (free) and Diarmuid Cooney (play) accounted for the Fr. Manning Gaels scores in the first half and they were always fighting a losing battle in the second half.
Slashers were never really extended and added another 1-5 to their tally on the changeover, the goal coming from Colin Smith in the 60th minute after he received the perfect pass from his brother Mark who has returned home from his travels abroad.
The points came from Martin Nevin (2), another brace from Colin Smith (frees) with Barry Gilleran surging forward to land a terrific effort while the Gaels got another five points in the second half - a brace apiece from Diarmuid Cooney and James Noonan (play and free) and Darren Farrelly also got his name on the scoresheet.
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Colm Farrell; Gareth Ghee, Barry Gilleran (0-1), Darren Flaherty; Peter Foy, Dermot Brady, Peter Brady; David Sheridan, Michael Brady; Martin Tarmey, Niall Mulligan (2-1), Trevor Clendenning; Martin Nevin (1-3), Colin Smith (1-4, three frees), Tom Madden.
Subs:- Stephen Phillips for T Clendenning (injured, 14 mins); Niall Kelly for M Brady (injured, 28 mins); Shane Rogers for D Flaherty (injured, 44 mins); Mark Smith for T Madden (49 mins); Brian Walsh for M Tarmey (53 mins).
FR. MANNING GAELS: Paddy Collum; Dylan Quinn, Cian Brady, Ciaran Cooney; Emmet Noonan, Aaron Quinn, Darren Reilly; Johnny Kane, Fergal Reilly; Darren Farrelly (0-1), Diarmuid Cooney (0-3), Padraig Gill (0-2, one free); James Noonan (0-3, two frees), Podge Gill, Pete Collum.
Subs:- Gary Connell for D Reilly (18 mins); Martin Cassidy for Pete Collum (half-time); David Cassidy for Podge Gill (50 mins); Paul Hughes for E Noonan (injured, 56 mins).
Referee: Michael Flynn (Ballymore).