Dromard suffered their first defeat in the All County Football League this season when they had to settle for second best against a superior Longford Slashers side in a repeat of last year’s county final at Pairc na nGael on Saturday evening last.
ACFL DIVISION 1A - Longford Slashers 1-13, Dromard 0-8
Although they are currently operating without a few regulars, most notably Mark Smith who has emigrated, Slashers have a strong squad at their disposal and with Denis Connerton back for a second term as team manager the sky-blues will be difficult to beat in the defence of the Connolly Cup.
The county champions have won all their four games played to date in Division 1A of the league and from the moment full-forward Colin Smith fired home the crucial only goal in the 22nd minute of the first half, the writing was on the wall for Dromard.
The home side were minus the services of Diarmuid Masterson, who got injured in action for Longford against Roscommon in the National League Division 4 Final at Croke Park the previous week, and he was sorely missed.
But when Dromard are back to full strength come the championship campaign they are clearly one of the main contenders for the county title after losing the last two finals and league form will be irrelevant in the competition that really matters.
Leading the Slashers charge on Saturday last were full-back Barry Gilleran, midfielder Niall Mulligan and centre-half-forward Paul Kelly while others to figure prominently in the attack were Colin Smith, Trevor Clendenning and Stephen Phillips who clocked up 1-11 between them.
With the advantage of the stiff breeze in the first half, Slashers had established a comfortable 1-6 to 0-3 lead at the break with Kelly racing through the Dromard defence to create the opening for the goal with Smith shooting past opposing keeper Damien Sheridan from point-blank range.
Smith also converted a couple of well-taken frees with Clendenning, Mulligan (a real driving force) and Phillips (2) getting the other points for Slashers who should have been even further ahead at half-time but for the fact that they squandered quite a few scoring chances.
On target for Dromard in the first half were Bernard Sheridan (free in the 2nd minute), wing back Peter Reynolds and Cian Mimnagh (free) and they had a very lucky escape just before the break when Colin Smith shot narrowly wide in his attempt to score a second goal for Slashers after Damien Sheridan had drifted way off his line.
Whatever hopes Dromard had of staging a comeback on the changeover suffered a significant setback when David Pettit received a straight red card from referee Patrick Maguire following a brief fracas in the goalmouth with just a couple of minutes gone in the second half.
While a Francis McGee free in the 36th minute closed the gap, Slashers came storming back to fire over four points in a row – a brace apiece from Trevor Clendenning and Colin Smith in making the extra man count on the scoreboard.
There was a glimmer of hope for Dromard as points were registered by Cian Mimnagh, Bernard Sheridan and substitute Jamsie Martin (free) in the space of five minutes but Slashers regained the upper hand in adding three more scores to their tally through Stephen Phillips, substitute Philip Dobson and Trevor Clendenning in the closing stages – the latter landing a fourth point from play.
Francis McGee fired over a late consolation free in his attempt to score a goal and Dromard team manager Sean Hagan does not need to be told that this was a disappointing display by his charges who were outplayed by Slashers for the best part of the game.
DROMARD: Damien Sheridan; Gavin McNerney, Cathal Conefrey, Conor Duffy; Paul McEntire, Peter Masterson, Peter Reynolds (0-1); James Mimnagh, Enda McEntire; Ciaran McStay, Cian Mimnagh (0-2, one free), Bernard Sheridan (0-2, one free); Emmet Masterson, Francis McGee (0-2, frees), David Pettit.
Subs:- Jamsie Martin (0-1, free) for P McEntire (half-time); Donie Conefrey for C McStay (52 mins); Padraic Martin for E Masterson (55 mins).
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Paddy McKeon; Peter Brady, Barry Gilleran, Gareth Ghee; Thomas O’Rourke, Dermot Brady, Paul Devine; Niall Mulligan (0-1), David Sheridan; Brian Farrell, Paul Kelly, Trevor Clendenning (0-4); Martin Nevin, Colin Smith (1-4, three points from frees), Stephen Phillips (0-3).
Subs:- Martin Tarmey for T O’Rourke (38 mins); Philip Dobson (0-1) for B Farrell (44 mins); Shane Dann for M Nevin (49 mins); Conor Barrins for B Gilleran (injured, 52 mins); Diarmuid McRory for P Devine (56 mins).
Referee: Patrick Maguire (Granard St. Mary’s).