Superb Longford send Mayo crashing out of All-Ireland
Just as they had done against Derry against all the odds back in 2006, Longford sprang another sensational shock in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers when they scored a magnificent win over Mayo much to the delight of the ecstatic home supporters among the 4,000 attendance in a thrilling finish at Pearse Park on Saturday evening last.
With a draw looking the likely outcome and extra-time looming Sean McCormack surged through the Mayo defence to fire over a glorious matchwinning point a minute into stoppage time and it was no more than Longford deserved for producing such a courageous and spirited performance against their illustrious opponents.
A cracking goal from substitute Paul Kelly approaching the midway point in the second half paved the way for the shock success and it was redemption for under fire team manager Glenn Ryan and his so committed squad who had only managed to beat London and Kilkenny in a terrible season prior to this memorable victory over last year's Connacht champions.
Much has been made of the Pearse Park factor in recent years and once Longford were handed home advantage the players firmly believed they had a chance of causing an upset against a Mayo team who were low in confidence after suffering a surprise defeat against Sligo and it showed in a lethargic display that lacked any real urgency.
National League Division 1 runners-up Mayo were rather complacent in that they always felt they were going to beat lowly Longford who finished third from the bottom in Division 4 but the underdogs somehow managed to raise their game to a new level and battled for every ball with a fierce tenacity that had to be admired.
Paddy Dowd, who started the game at right-half-forward, was the driving force behind this sensational result and the man-of-the-match gradually grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck to inspire Longford.Dowd was most impressive in making it so difficult for the Mayo defence while prominent full-forward Brian Kavanagh was also a constant threat whenever he received the ball.
After a slow start, Bernard McElvaney enjoyed some fine spells at centrefield in making a number of excellent catches while right-half-back Shane Mulligan was also much to the fore with his exciting penetrating runs – one of which yielded a fisted point late in the game.
Mulligan was the main man in a gutsy Longford defence who showed great intensity in working so hard as a compact unit to close down the highly rated Mayo attack and credit also to full-back Barry Gilleran for clearing the danger on quite a few occasions during the course of the game.
With the advantage of the stiff breeze, Mayo had to be content with a slender 0-7 to 0-4 lead at the break after shooting a number of wides in rather tame first half and the general opinion was that Longford had a great opportunity of springing a major shock on the changeover despite the setback of losing Paul Barden who was forced to retire injured in the 35th minute.
While they closed the gap with a point from a Francis McGee free in a strong start to the second half, some other good chances were squandered and this allowed Mayo to regain the upper hand with a brace of scores from the always dangerous Alan Dillon in the 40th and 44th minutes.
That was really putting it up to Longford, who now trailed by 0-9 to 0-5 despite playing with the wind, but the home side proceeded to play their best football all year in a golden passage that yielded 1-4 without reply between the 45th and 53rd minutes.
It was quality football, to say the least, and the impact being made by forwards coach Graham Geraghty (the former Meath star) was clearly evident as five different Longford players got their names on the scoresheet. First to shoot over the bar was Kevin Mulligan who landed a long range effort and then Francis McGee was on target before corner-back Dermot Brady joined the attack to set up a cracking point for the so influential Paddy Dowd.
McGee then missed a free before the decisive factor materialised with the Longford goal in the 51st minute.Kevin Mulligan, Sean McCormack, Brian Kavanagh and Paddy Dowd (who supplied the final pass) were all involved in a wonderful move that created the chance for Paul Kelly to plant the ball in the back of the net.
Two minutes later Kavanagh kicked a point to leave Longford leading by 1-9 to 0-9 in a highly entertaining second half but Mayo finally awoke from their slumber with a score from Alan Freeman in the 54th minute and soon after the same player should have grabbed a goal when he blasted the ball over the bar from point-blank range.
That was a very lucky escape for Longford who recovered well with a brilliant point near the sideline from Brian Kavanagh at his best in the 57th minute and the ding-dong battle continued when Conor Mortimer converted a free to narrow the gap to the minimum of margins, 1-10 to 0-12.
Mayo then squandered a decent chance of a goal and Barry Moran had a scoring attempt blocked down by Paddy Dowd before Bernard McElvaney was guilty of kicking a bad wide. A great catch under pressure by Barry Gilleran relieved the pressure on Longford and Mayo looked in real trouble when key defender Keith Higgins was sent-off for dissent in the 65th minute.
Down to 14 players, Mayo regained their composure with a great score from the excellent Alan Freeman that left the sides all square but Longford were back in front with 67 minutes gone on the clock after Shane Mulligan raced through to fist the ball over the bar.
The tension was now almost unbearable and after Freeman landed a wonderful equalising point in the 69th minute, Mayo defender Donal Vaughan had a great chance to put his side ahead but the pressure got to him as he shot badly wide.
Time was almost up when Sean McCormack, after receiving the ball from centre-half-back Enda Williams, created the room to fire over the winning point to spark jubilant scenes when the final whistle was eventually blown.
This shock defeat was all too much for Mayo manager John O'Mahony who quit after the game whereas Longford boss Glenn Ryan can now look forward to the second round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers against Down in Newry on Saturday week, July 10th.
All six Longford forwards that started the game got their names on the scoresheet but the fitness of the most experienced attacker Paul Barden is a serious cause for concern.After landing a point from play in the 28th minute of the first half, Barden was clearly in trouble and he was eventually replaced by Paul Kelly just before the break.
The other three Longford points in the first half came from frees, the first converted by Francis McGee in the 12th minute after Mayo had raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead with scores in quick succession from Alan Freeman (free), Seamus O'Shea and Barry Moran.
Conor Mortimer then shot over the bar and after Brian Kavanagh (free) was on target for Longford in the 18th minute, Alan Dillon kicked over another point for Mayo to leave them 0-5 to 0-2 ahead after 21 minutes.
Back came Longford with a point apiece from Francis McGee (free) and Paul Barden to close the gap but they then kicked three wides. When Mayo closed out the first half with a brace of late scores from Andy Moran ('45' and play), the pressure was back on Glenn Ryan's side who were now 0-7 to 0-4 behind but they refused to be rattled and gradually got on top in a dramatic second half to achieve what was generally considered to be a mission impossible.
LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan (Dromard); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Declan Reilly (Colmcille); Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba's, 0-1), Enda Williams (Clonguish), Seamus Hannon (Mostrim); Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard), Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore); Paddy Dowd (Clonguish, 0-1), Kevin Mulligan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba's, 0-1), Paul Barden (Clonguish, 0-1); Sean McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-1), Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes, 0-3, one free), Francis McGee (Dromard, 0-4, three frees).
Subs:- Paul Kelly (Longford Slashers, 1-0) for P Barden (injured, 35 mins); Peter Foy (Cashel) for S Hannon (injured, 60 mins).
MAYO: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Trevor Howley; Donal Vaughan, Keith Higgins, Kevin McLoughlin; Seamus O'Shea (0-1), Pat Harte; Andy Moran (0-2, one '45'), Aidan O'Shea, Alan Freeman (0-5, one free); Conor Mortimer (0-2, one free), Barry Moran (0-1), Alan Dillon (0-3).
Subs:- Liam O'Malley for K McLoughlin (34 mins); Mark Ronaldson for A O'Shea (42 mins); Tom Parsons for T Howley (54 mins); Billy Joe Padden for P Harte (65 mins).
Referee: Gearoid O Conamha (Galway).
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Weather for Longford, Ireland
Friday 24 May 2013
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Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
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