While Longford Slashers made it through to the Junior ‘A’ Football Championship title decider for the second year in succession, their eventual victory over a gritty Fr. Manning Gaels side was hard earned in the semi-final clash at Pearse Park on Sunday last.
Goals at crucial stages of the game got Slashers across the line in their quest to make amends for the disappointment of losing to Young Grattans in last year’s Junior final and the introduction of Robbie Clarke at the start of the second half made a significant difference in swinging the issue in favour of the sky-blues.
County minor Clarke injected considerable pace into the Slashers attack and he got the decisive third goal in the 41st minute, ater receiving the perfect pass from his brother Ruairi with Mark Mulligan also involved in the slick move.
It was Mulligan who planted the breaking ball into the back of the net from close range in the 37th minute, just moments after James Breslin had scoring a cracking goal for Fr. Manning Gaels to leave the Drumlish/Ballinamuck side leading by 1-6 to 1-2.
The Gaels had dominated the first quarter of the contest to race into a comfortable 0-5 to 0-1 lead with their points coming from Anthony Kane (2), Emmet Collum, Padraic Davis and Ronan Corr while Sean Clarke accounted for Slashers solitary score in the 11th minute.
But the town side got back on level terms with a point from Andrew Kelly and a neat flicked goal from Sean Clarke in the 23rd minute after he connected with a high ball in from midfielder Andrew Lyons.
Sean Clarke then had a penalty in the 25th minute brilliantly saved by the Gaels keeper Enda Quinn, who deflected the ball against the post, and when Anthony Kane fired over his third point the north Longford side held a narrow 0-6 to 1-2 lead at the break.
Those three goals in the space of five minutes really brought the game to life in the second half and Slashers added another five points to their tally through Robbie Clarke, Ruairi Clarke, Mark Mulligan, substitute Brian Rooney and Ciaran Farrell (free) to clinch the victory.
Fr. Manning Gaels replied with a further 1-2, the goal coming from Danny McGee in the 53rd minute, while the points were kicked by Anthony Kane (free) and substitute Gearoid Nertney. Indeed, the gallant losers had a strong claim for a penalty turned down in the 44th minute when Emmet Collum appeared to be fouled in the square.
Having said that, Robbie Clarke had a shot parried against the crossbar by the Gaels keeper Enda Quinn in the 48th minute and Slashers just about deserved their slender success.
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Daniel Doherty; Barry O’Rourke, Dominic Glennon, Ronan Sheahan; Shane Dann, Diarmuid McRory, Chris McGurran; Andrew Lyons, Shane Campbell; Ruairi Clarke (0-1), James Martin, Sean Clarke (1-1); Andrew Kelly (0-1), Ciaran Farrell (0-1, free), Mark Mulligan (1-1).
Subs:- Robbie Clarke (1-1) for A Kelly (half-time); Kevin Finnan for J Martin (47 mins); Brian Rooney (0-1) for Ruairi Clarke (50 mins); Cian Kavanagh for S Clarke (59 mins).
FR. MANNING GAELS: Enda Quinn; Michael Kane, Gary Brady, Tommy McGee; Leon McKeon, Martin Mulleady, James Murtagh; Padraic Davis (0-1), Mark Breslin; Anthony Kane (0-4, two frees), Mark Prunty, Alan Callaghan; Ronan Corr (0-1), Emmet Collum (0-1), Danny McGee (1-0).
Subs:- James Breslin (1-0) for M Breslin (half-time); Sean Diffley for J Murtagh (42 mins); Eamon Crowe for E Quinn (52 mins); Gearoid Nertney (0-1) for A Callaghan (55 mins).
Referee: Aidan Dowler