What a difference a year makes. When these two sides met at the beginning of March last year in the league Longford ran out deserving winners by three points. A few months later they met again, this time in the Lory Meagher Cup, with Longford emphatically beating South Down.
South Down . . . . . . 2 - 17
Longford . . . . . . . 1 - 10
On Sunday last, however, it was a case of ‘third time lucky’ as the Mournemen produced a fantastic second half performance to come away with the win.
Longford reached the Division 4 final last year, suffering just one defeat along their way to that final. If they want to repeat that feat this year they know they can’t afford any more slip-ups like this and a huge improvement is needed for the rest of the campaign.
Next up for them is a trip to Fermanagh next Sunday. The Ernesiders comprehensively beat Cavan in their first round game so it’s going to be a very tough test for Tom Lynam’s men.
Longford were missing several influential players for this game and they proved to be a massive loss. They really missed the scoring prowess of Gareth Ghee and Declan Tanner, as well as midfielder Martin Coyle and goalkeeper Paddy Cullen.
There was nothing between the sides in the first half and they went in level at the break 1-7 to 0-10pts. But South Down took complete control after the restart and really exerted their pressure.
In a 10 minute spell in the second half they completely brushed aside Longford’s weak challenge as they hit 1-5 without reply; Paul McAleenan with the goal in the 46th minute. Even with 24 minutes of the game remaining there looked like no way back for Longford.
Such was South Down’s dominance after the break Longford were limited to just three points; two of those came in the last few minutes.
It was Longford’s Johnny Casey who opened the scoring in the first minute but South Down were level one minute later through Eoin McGuinness. Eoin Donnellan put Longford back in front before South Down hit three unanswered points to go in front by two points.
A goal from Seamus Hannon put Longford back in front in the 9th minute and a free from Joe O’Brien two minutes later turned a two point deficit into a two point lead for Longford.
South Down came to within one point of Longford in the 13th and 16th minute but on both occasions Longford responded with a score. An excellent score from Joe O’Brien in the 20th minute put Longford ahead by three but South Down fought back and three points in three minutes left the sides level for the third time.
As half-time approached South Down’s talisman Liam Morgan fired over a free to edge his side in front but O’Brien responded for Longford and it was all square going in at the break.
The visitors started the second half well and restored their lead in the 42nd minute with another McGuinness point, Morgan hit over his 6th point of the game two minutes later before disaster struck for Longford in the 46th minute when Paul McAleenan found the back of the net.
Two more points from Morgan and one from Paul O’Neill extended South Down’s lead to eight points. Longford’s first score of the second half came in the 55th minute; another O’Brien free. But there was to be no dramatic comeback for Longford.
South Down’s eight point advantage was restored in the 58th minute and three minutes later it was game over when South Down got their second goal of the game; Kieran Courtney’s sideline ball eluded everyone and ended up in the back of the net. Morgan added on another free in the 64th minute to leave the score 2-17 to 1-8.
Joe O’Brien tried to put a bit of respectability on the scoreline five minutes from time but South Down’s ‘keeper Gary McMullan pulled off a fine save to deny the Clonguish clubman.
Johnny Casey and O’Brien hit over points for Longford before the end as their league campaign got off to a disappointing start.
Longford: Eanna Daly; Brendan Stakem, Sean Browne, James Devine; Anthony Corcoran, Fergal Daly, Rory Donnellan; Eoin Donnellan (0-2,2f), Seamus Hannon (1-0); Johnny Casey (0-2), John Newman, Conor Egan; Michael Morrisey, Joe O’Brien (0-6, 5f), Ciaran Finnucane.
Subs: Karl Murray for Finnucane 49 mins, John Minnock for Newman 57 mins, Michael Cunningham for Browne 58 mins.
South Down: Gary McMullan; Patrick Byrne, James McGrath, Chris Teague; Artie McGuinness, Kieran Courtney (1-0), Kevin Fagan; Paul O’Neill (0-2,’65,f), Liam Morgan (0-10, 9f); Eoin Donnelly, Michael Cunningham, Eoin McGuinness (0-2); Paul McAleenan (1-0), Mal Magee(0-1), Michael McCurtan (0-2).
Subs: Noel Burns for Fagan half-time, Aidan Brown for McAleenan 46mins, Liam Deegan for O’Neill 58mins, Conal Earley for Byrne 59mins.
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).