All-Ireland SFC Qualifier Rd 1A: Derry 2-14 Longford 2-16
A 66th minute goal by super sub Mark Hughes helped brilliant Longford secure a sensational against the odds victory over Derry in the opening round of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers at sun splashed Celtic Park, Derry today.
Written off as rank outsiders, Jack Sheedy’s giant killing Longford, who lost to Wexford in the Leinster quarter-final, produced a stirring performance that belied their Division 4 league status and totally stunned the Oak Leafers who were Division 1 finalists and lost in the opening round of the Ulster Championship against Donegal.
After 26 minutes, Derry led by 0-7 to 0-3 and seemed to be coasting, however, there were some warning signs. Paul Barden was firing on all cylinders for Longford and twice he did everything right except fine the twine as he was denied by saves from Derry ‘keeper Thomas Mallon.
Barden and Brian Kavanagh were effectively operating as a two-man full forward line as Longford’s blanket defence worked hard to keep Derry at bay.
James Kielt, Enda Lynn, 18-year-old debut boy at full forward Terence O’Brien and the vastly experienced Derry captain Mark Lynch supplied the scores for the Oak Leafers.
Longford, who previously defeated Derry in a 2006 All-Ireland SFC qualifier at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park by 1-16 to 2-12 and again at the same venue in June 2012 by 0-17 to 2-8, built up some great momentum in the closing nine minutes of the first half and they reeled off 1-3 without reply, thereby giving them an interval cushion of 1-6 to 0-7.
Brilliant Barden rattled the twine and he grabbed a point, while Colm P Smith, after a storming burst forward out of defence, and Sean McCormack were also on target with points.
On the resumption, Longford full back Barry Gilleran executed a crucial goal line clearance before points by Shane Mulligan and Michael Quinn extended Longford’s lead to four points, 0-7 to 1-8.
With Quinn exerting dominance around mid-field it was clear that Longford meant business and at different stages Barry O’Farrell, Aidan Rowan and Francis McGee dropped back deep to lend assistance to a disciplined rearguard.
When Longford surged five points clear, 0-11 to 1-13, courtesy of Barden’s 59th minute point, it looked as though the win was in the bag.
Derry didn’t see it that way though and inside five dramatic minutes, with goals from sub Brendan Herron and Mark Lynch, they were level, 2-11 to 1-14.
Longford were seriously under the cosh but defiantly they refused to wilt in the searing Derry sun and directly from another great long kick out by Damien Sheridan they counter attacked and sub Mark Hughes polished off a slick move with a well-executed goal, 2-11 to 2-14 in favour of the visitors. It was a real sucker punch for Derry absorb and it got worse when McGee swiftly followed up with Longford’s 15th point.
Derry, buoyed on by their supporters, fought back and they got to within a point, 2-14 to 2-15, after Lynn and Kielt (2) kicked points.
With merely a minute of normal time remaining the momentum was with Derry, but in fairness to Longford, they kept their cool and Brian Kavanagh curled over an added time free that sealed a superb 2-16 to 2-14 win for fired-up Longford.
Derry scorers: Mark Lynch 1-4, James Kielt 0-3, Terence O’Brien 0-3, Brendan Herron 1-0, Enda Lynn 0-2, Emmet Bradley 0-1, Sean Leo McGoldrick 0-1
Longford scorers: Paul Barden 1-2, Sean McCormack 0-4, Brian Kavanagh 0-3, Mark Hughes 1-0, Michael Quinn 0-2, Francis McGee 0-2, Colm P Smith 0-1, Shane Mulligan 0-1, Barry Gilleran 0-1