After the bitter disappointment of losing by a point against Wexford in the recent Leinster ‘C’ Final, the Longford U-16 ladies have come storming back to reach the All-Ireland ‘C’ Football Final with great wins over Sligo and Down, the latter at the Lannliere GFC grounds in Dunleer, Co Louth on Wednesday evening last.
It was not looking good for the Longford girls at half-time as they trailed by nine points (4-6 to 2-3) against the Ulster champions Down but inspired by the outstanding Ciara Healy from Newtowncashel (who ended up with the tremendous total of 3-7) the course of the game changed completely as the rampant midlanders ran out most emphatic winners.
The wide margin of 14 points separated the sides at the finish and Longford, managed by former county ladies footballer Dara McGann, can now look forward with considerable confidence to the All-Ireland U-16 ‘C’ title decider against the Ulster runners-up in this grade, Derry, at a venue to be confirmed on Wednesday evening next, July 27th.
Down got the opening score from a Clara Cowen free in the 6th minute and this was quickly followed by a Longford free converted by Ciara Healy. The Ulster side then registered three points in a row through Cowen (2) and midfielder Rachelle Connolly but Longford got back on level terms when a great pass from Jessica Brady put Niamh Brady through for a goal in the 11th minute.
Two goals in quick succession from Clara Cowen and Orla Duffy saw Down establish a grip on the game and when they found the back of the net again in the 20th minute, Longford appeared to be in considerable trouble.
Although they battled back with a goal from Jessica Barry in the 26th minute, after receiving the perfect pass from Eve Nerney, and with Ciara Healy landing a brace of points (free and play) Longford suffered another setback when Down full-forward Leah Beattie scored the fourth goal for the mourne county just before the break.
Longford were 4-6 to 2-3 behind and facing a real uphill battle on the changeover but they produced a brilliant performance to completely dominate the second half, scoring 6-7 and restricting the rattled Down girls to just two points.
A point from a free and a goal from a penalty converted by Ciara Healy ignited the explosive comeback and a further five goals followed from Healy (2), Niamh Brady and influential substitute Sarah Farrell (2) as Down were blown away.
The other points were scored by Ciara Healy (3), Aisling McCormack, Jessica Barry and Sarah Farrell in what a great team effort in the second half and hopefully they can now go on to win the All-Ireland U-16 ‘C’ title.
Scorers - Longford: Ciara Healy (3-7, three points from frees, one goal from penalty); Sarah Farrell (2-1); Niamh Brady (2-0); Jessica Barry (1-1), Aisling McCormack (0-1).
LONGFORD SQUAD: Sara Lee Greene (Mostrim), Megan Lynn (Mostrim), Niamh Darcy (Clonguish), Sarah Horan (Ballymahon/Forgney), Orla Farrell (Carrickedmond), Orla Nevin (Longford Slashers), Muireann Claffey (Ballymahon/Forgney), Aisling McCormack (Ballymahon/Forgney), Aine Barry (Longford Slashers), Eve Nerney (Grattans), Ciara Foxe (Ballymahon/Forgney), Ciara Healy (Rathcline), Niamh Brady (Killoe), Jessica Barry (Longford Slashers), Aine Bannon (Rathcline). Rebecca Stavuse (Rathcline), Zoe Gallagher (Rathcline), Megan Jobe (Colmcille), Mya Murtagh (Colmcille), Sarah Farrell (Rathcline), Julianne Moran (Carrickedmond), Rebecca O’Kane (Grattans), Ciara Gormley (Killoe), Niamh Hanley (Ballymahon/Forgney), Natasha Hourican (Clonguish), Clodagh Duffy (Dromard), Petrina Carrigy (Grattans), Andrea Farrell (Killoe), Grace Butler (Mostrim), Sinead Donoghue (Killoe), Dearbhaile Rooney (Killoe), Cliodhna Allen (Clonguish).
Management Team: Dara McGann, Mick Mulvey, Sinead Macken, Kyana Lee