Longford bowed out of the Towns Cup following a tough slog in a very soggy CPL Park on Sunday last, losing by seven points in the finish.
Facing up against a Tullow side that made the journey to the midlands for the second time in the space of two weeks was always going to be tough, but bouts of torrential rain that doused the spirits throughout the contest undone the Longford hopes of making further progress.
A frantic closing ten minutes by the home side gave the damp supporters hope, but the cup hopes concluded in the mud of the Demesne. Longford had the advantage going into the game having overcome Tullow in the last encounter in the Leinster League, but at the tail end of the season Tullow were going all out to extend the amount of rugby they will be playing.
Longford got off to the best possible start when they gained the advantage from the kick-off. The visitors set out a marker early by putting in a late hit on Longford out half Colm Glynn. Despite the difficult conditions, Barry Trueick was sure footed in the mud and slotted home his first opportunity to leave it 3-0 to the home side.
In the next 15 minutes the ball spent a lot of time in the air. As the sides shuffled through the mud the players found the basics of the game, like holding on to the slippy ball and staying on their feet, most difficult.
Longford looked to have an edge on a couple of occasions, getting behind the line, but the Carlow men managed to head off all attacks.
In the 18th minute Tullow put together an impressive number of phases before spinning wide. The defenders held solid, but a touch line ruck displeased the referee and the visitors had their first shot at goal. William Canavan measured the blustery, rainy conditions perfectly and cracked a shot that hit the crossbar before spiralling over.
Two minutes later Longford got the advantage of a ref decision, but the mire and an unpredictable wind conspired against Trueick’s kick. A Canavan effort followed this for incorrect maul entry, but the visiting out half’s effort also succumbed to the conditions.
As the game entered the final phases of the first half, Longford fell foul of a dreadful lapse of concentration. Having wrestled around in the mud to turnover a Tullow threat the ball squirted out of a ruck. Flanker Aidan Murphy latched on to it and dashed eight metres through a staggered line, slipping three tackles, before going over for the visitors first try. Canavan’s conversion left it 3-10 at the break.
The Carlow side pressed their advantage in the second half. As the rain tumbled down with an even more pronounced vigour, Tullow pressed Longford into their own half. A three pointer that would have been a cert on any other day was kicked to the corner in the 50th minute. Lineout, rolling maul with traction control, grounding in the corner for a Tullow try, leaving it 3-15.
The sides struggled in the muck of the home side’s half for a further twenty minutes. Then slowly, incrementally, Longford inched to the Tullow 22. A wonderful break by Clifford Richardson, with support from Benny McManus, Ronan Keith and Alistair McCormack all set up a real attacking threat. As the Tullow defenders got sucked in a neat attacking line was set up. When the ball was spun it went through the hands out to Killian Bartley, who crossed the line for a try to give Longford a glimmer of hope. Without a conversion the scoreboard read 8-15.
Longford made every effort to claw back but Tullow contained the threat and ran the clock out. This was not one for the highlight reel and that most of the players would have been happy when the 80 minutes had elapsed.
LONGFORD: Dylan Quinn, Ronan Keith, Niall Harney, Benny McManus, Dan Sweeney, Clifford Richardson, Huby Connolly, Justin Whittaker, Shane Rodgers, Colm Glynn, Lorcan Connolly, Killian Bartley, Ciaran Kennedy, James O’Connell, Barry
Replacements: Alistair McCormack, John Duffy, Fergal McGlade, Sean Smith, Finbar McGowan.
TULLOW: S Calbeck, S Corrigan, A Burns, K Hanbridge, E Ingles, A Murphy, J Hanbridge, W O’Brien, S Rohan, W Canavan, R Keogh, J Holland Brennan, K Hokan, D Moran, W O’Brien.