Longford U-21s let victory slip from their grasp

Four Cavan points in the space of a stunning three minute spell in stoppage time meant Longford went home from Kingspan Breffni Park empty handed as Padraic Davis' charges opened their 2011 Hastings Cup campaign in defeat.

Four Cavan points in the space of a stunning three minute spell in stoppage time meant Longford went home from Kingspan Breffni Park empty handed as Padraic Davis' charges opened their 2011 Hastings Cup campaign in defeat.

Cavan 0-15

Longford 2-8

This unlucky setback materialised despite scoring two goals in the space of a minute during a highly charged second half under the 3G floodlights at Cavan GAA headquarters last Saturday evening.

Their cause, and Cavan's for that matter was not helped by a combination of swirling winds and torrential rain, making playing conditions wretched as both sets of supporters looked on from the stand.

Not surprisingly, the game was scrappy and incoherent from the outset. Cavan, spurred on by the towering Gearoid McKiernan in midfield were however the first to strike through a well taken Barry Reilly effort three minutes in.

Longford responded moments later as James Noonan stroked over a free after Turlough Mooney upended Colm P. Smith 30 yards from goal. The impressive McKiernan and Padraig Gill then swapped scores as both sides struggled to keep hold of possession in the early exchanges.

McKiernan added two more soon after, the second a delightful run and shot while Barry Reilly heaped more worried looks on the faces of those in the Longford dugout with a sublime score in the 22nd minute.

But Longford showed just why so many of their U-21 stars are so highly thought of as the first half drew to a close. First James Noonan pointed via a free to reduce the deficit to two before Diarmuid Cooney lashed over his side's opening score from play from fully 40 yards. With Longford now in the ascendancy, Noonan posted his third free and Darren Quinn fisted over the bar to edge the visitors into a 0-6 to 0-5 lead at the break.

To those Longford fans huddled together in the stand, the half-time whistle arguably could not have come at a worse time. Gearoid McKiernan apart, Longford looked to have their Ulster counterparts in trouble with the lively Noonan and Cooney in attack and the industrious Kevin Diffley in midfield particularly prominent.

And six minutes into the second half, the all important breakthrough arrived. A searching ball downfield found Padraig McCormack in space and just as the half forward prepared to pull the trigger, Turlough Mooney hauled him down. Referee Gerry Gallogly had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and neither did Longford goalkeeper Paddy Collum in dispatching it, sending his opposite number Jim Leahy the wrong way from the spot.

If that was a shot in the arm for Longford, even better was to come 60 seconds later as John Keegan latched onto a Kevin Diffley through ball to beat Leahy at his near post. Seven points up, Longford were seemingly out of sight and on their way to a decisive victory over their near neighbours.

But as is often the case with local derbies, there were plenty more twists and turns during the last 20 minutes as Cavan looked to their more established U-21 stars for inspiration. Kevin Meehan was first to get in on the act to cut the gap to six just as Cavan sprung Oisin O'Connell and Aaron Smith from the bench. O'Connell curled a stunner over in the 44th minute seconds before Shane Tierney agonisingly dragged a glorious goal chance wide of Paddy Collum's right hand post.

Jack Brady and Meehan made up for Tierney's profligacy soon after thanks to a free and 30 yard strike from play. That cut Longford's cushion to three and despite another Noonan free, Cavan were by now rampant. Meehan added another to his personal points tally while Jack Brady and then Barry Reilly levelled the scores as the game entered stoppage time.

The only question was could Longford cling on and fend off the Cavan onslaught? The answer came in the 63rd minute of play when half back Michael Brady strolled forward to send over the winning score much to the delight of a raucous home following.

CAVAN: Jim Leahy; Damien Barkey, Oisin Mimnagh, Shane Reilly; Turlough Mooney, Michael Brady (0-1), Kevin Meehan (0-3); Gearoid McKiernan (0-3), Niall McKiernan; Niall Smith, Barry Reilly (0-4, one free), Simon Cadam; Shane Tierney, Shane Reilly, Jack Brady (0-2, both frees).

Subs used:- Aaron Smith, Oisin O'Connell (0-1), Fergal Flanagan, Sean Nolan (0-1).

LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels, 1-0, penalty); James Carroll (Rathcline), Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara), Aaron Quinn (Fr. Manning Gaels); Marty Mulvey (Carrickedmond), Colm P. Smith (Abbeylara), Fergal Reilly (Fr. Manning Gaels); John Keegan (Mullinalaghta, 1-0), Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon); Padraig McCormack (Killoe), Padraig Gill (Fr. Manning Gaels, 0-1), Darren Gallagher (Granard); Diarmuid Cooney (Fr. Manning Gaels, 0-1), James Noonan (Fr. Manning Gaels, 0-4, all frees), Darren Quinn (Clonguish, 0-2).

Subs used:- Colm E. Smyth (Abbeylara) for D Cooney (48 mins); Peter Reynolds (Dromard) for D Gallagher (54 mins).

Referee: Gerry Gallogly (Leitrim).