First half goals decisive as Slashers through to another county final

The loss of the injured Paul Barden proved to be a major blow for Clonguish in their quest to gain revenge for the bitter disappointment of the one point defeat in last year’s county final and thus there was no doubting Longford Slashers superiority on this occasion as they got through to another Senior Football Championship decider to remain on course for a three-in-a-row title triumph.

Having said that, Clonguish clearly had the better of the exchanges with the advantage of the wind in the first half and were most unfortunate to be trailing by the minimum of margins at the break, 2-4 to 0-9, with a rather lethargic Slashers side getting decisive goals at just the right time to ease the pressure.

Denis Connerton’s side were 0-6 to 0-4 behind when Paul Kelly created the opening for the generally impressive Martin Nevin to plant the ball in the back of the net with 23 minutes gone on the clock but Clonguish (boosted by the return of Darren Quinn after his injury absence in the previous round) showed a lot of character in hitting back immediately to regain the lead with a brace of points through Joe O’Brien and Eoin Keane.

O’Brien had the goals at his mercy but shot over the bar and there was another lucky let-off for Slashers in the 27th minute when a timely interception by full-back Barry Gilleran prevented a pass from Eoin Keane getting through to Stephen Watters right in front of the posts.

The reigning champions were living dangerously but they are a vastly experienced outfit in tight situations and proceeded to hit Clonguish with a shattering blow just before the break. Peter Brady, pitted to prominent effect in the half-back-line, surged forward to send Niall Mulligan racing through and his subsequent pass across the face of the goalmouth was flicked to the net by the inrushing Colin Smith.

A minute into stoppage time David Barden surged forward to land a terrific point and the other Clonguish scores in a most entertaining first half came from Paddy Dowd (two frees), Kevin Burke (2), David Faughnan, Joe O’Brien (2) and Eoin Keane.

Martin Nevin kicked a couple of neat points for Slashers with Colin and Mark Smith firing over a free apiece in the first half and the title holders stepped up another couple of gears in the second half to dominate in most positions on the pitch with the aid of the wind.

Mark Smith was on target again when his well struck shot was parried over the bar by Clonguish keeper Mikie McGuinness with five minutes gone on the changeover and Niall Mulligan then fisted a point when a goal was on.

Paddy Dowd was doing his best to keep Clonguish in touch and after converting a free the former county player kicked a magnificent point from a tight angle in the 40th minute to leave just a solitary score separating the sides, 2-6 to 0-11.

But Slashers gradually pulled away to book their place in the county final on Sunday October 7th and following a point apiece from the accurate Smith brothers – Colin (free) and Mark (play) – they created another goal chance when Niall Mulligan burst through but he fumbled the ball as a promising attack broke down.

Mulligan made amends a couple of minutes later when he produced another penetrating run through the Clonguish defence to fire over a cracking point and Slashers went further ahead when Stephen Phillips got his name on the scoresheet in the 49th minute.

Clonguish were now in serious trouble and while Paddy Dowd converted another free to give his side a glimmer of hope, Barry Gilleran then joined the Slashers attack and was clean through for a goal when he directed a soccer style shot over the bar.

Colin Smith then got out of a tangle and was also in the clear but elected to fist the ball over the bar and after Darren Quinn landed a consolation score for Clonguish in stoppage time, Smith fired over a free to leave Longford Slashers in a comfortable six-point lead when referee John Bannon blew the final whistle.

LONGFORD SLASHERS: Colm Farrell; Gareth Ghee, Barry Gilleran (0-1), Conor Clarke; Peter Brady, Paul Kelly, Dermot Brady; Michael Brady, David Sheridan; Martin Nevin (1-2), Stephen Phillips (0-1), Trevor Clendenning; Mark Smith (0-3, one free), Colin Smith (1-4, three frees), Niall Mulligan (0-2).

Subs:- Sean Flynn for C Clarke (28 mins); Ruairi Barrins for T Clendenning (54 mins); Paul Devine for M Nevin (59 mins); Brian Farrell for M Smith (61 mins).

CLONGUISH: Mikie McGuinness; Padraig Cooney, Enda Williams, Anthony Watters; Darren Quinn (0-1), Brendan Devine, Brendan Burke; David Barden (0-1), David Faughnan (0-1); Stephen McLoughlin, Paddy Dowd (0-5, four frees), Kevin Burke (0-2); Eoin Keane (0-1), Stephen Watters, Joe O’Brien (0-2).

Subs:- Stephen Norton for P Cooney (47 mins); Shane O’Brien for S McLoughlin (54 mins).

Referee: John Bannon (Legan Sarsfields).