Longford’s bid for glory in the Bank of Ireland GAA Celtic Challenge U17 Hurling Tom Hogan Cup Final at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park, Tullamore ended in bitter disappointment on Saturday last as they succumbed to a heavy 1-5 to 3-21 reversal at the hands of their neighbours Leitrim.
Bank of Ireland GAA Celtic Challenge U17 Hurling Tom Hogan Cup Final: Longford 1-5 Leitrim 3-21
The opening ten minutes of this decider were closely contested, however, once Leitrim’s ace marksmen Cormac White and Shane Mallon found their groove, there was no containing Hilary Phelan’s slick moving charges.
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With 19 minutes elapsed, Leitrim led by 1-6 to 0-4. By the 59th minute they had added a further 1-15 to their tally, leaving the scoreboard read 2-21 to 0-4. The gap at half-time was 1-13 to 0-4.
Out of sorts Longford, who drew with Louth and Cavan and suffered defeats at the hands of Wicklow Gold, Kildare Cadets and Monaghan in Group F of the Celtic Challenge, did net a late consolation goal through Adam Murray but it took none of the gloss off Leitrim’s super win.
The triumph, indeed, capped a memorable week for Leitrim hurling enthusiasts who just seven days witnessed their senior side capture the Lory Meagher Cup at Croke Park.
Leitrim began impressively, notching the two opening points, but Longford, who defeated Fermanagh by 3-13 to 2-13 in a cracking semi-final encounter the previous Saturday at Bertie Allen Park, were on level terms, 0-2 apiece, by the fifth minute courtesy of the very accurate Adam Murray.
Longford ‘keeper Daniel Gallagher produced a smart 7th minute save to deny Leitrim’s Ruairí King at the expense of a ‘65 which was duly converted by Shane Mallon. Lively corner forward Cormac White soon pounced for Leitrim’s opening goal and with Mallon tacking on a point, they were 1-4 to 0-2 up by the 10th minute.
Fifteen year old Adam Murray, son of Longford manager Carol, who also captained Longford Slashers to John West Féile na nGael success in 2018, replied with a 13th minute point.
Leitrim, hurling into the Arden Road end, added two converted frees thanks to White and with the high, energy sapping temperature taking its toll, both counties made good use of the unlimited substitution rule.
Murray landed Longford’s fourth point from a 19th minute long range free, 0-4 to 1-6, and unfortunately his team had to endure a 40 minute barren scoring spell as Leitrim took complete control of matters and reeled off 1-15 without reply.
Leitrim’s lethal scoring duo of White and midfielder Mallon contributed three and four points, respectively, during the closing ten minutes of the opening half, giving Leitrim an interval cushion of 12 points, 1-13 to 0-4.
As if the task facing Longford wasn’t difficult enough, it worsened within seconds of the restart. Niall Crowe’s delivery wasn’t gathered cleanly and the alert White flicked the sliotar to the onion bag, 2-13 to 0-4. This sucker blow knocked the confidence out of the Longford lads altogether.
Between the 37th and 55th minutes, rampant Leitrim added eight points through White (4, 3 frees), Cormac Kane, Eoin McLoughlin (2) and Mallon, making it 2-21 to 0-4.
In the 58th minute, Longford centre back Iarlaith Dolan made a strong solo run upfield and the move ended with Adam Connaughton being fouled. Adam Murray stood over the free from just outside the 21m line and he confidently drilled it low to the twine.
In injury time, Leitrim’s Pádraig Kane struck for the winners third goal, beating Eoin Noonan who took over between the uprights in place of the injured Daniel Gallagher. Disappointed Longford had the final say and fittingly it went to Adam Murray who pointed a free, bringing his and Longford’s tally to 1-5.
Murray afterwards was deservedly chosen as Longford’s Best and Fairest Award winner and he was presented with his trophy by Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin.
The mightily influential Shane Mallon was named as Leitrim’s Best and Fairest, while the honour of accepting the Celtic Challenge Tom Hogan Cup went to solid full back Shane Rynn.
Winner of ten All-Ireland SHC medals and eleven All Star awards, Ballyhale Shamrocks clubmann and Celtic Challenge ambassador Shefflin presented both squads with their medals.
LEITRIM: Brian Goldrick; Brian King, Shane Rynn (captain), Pearse Kenny; Fergal McLoughlin, Paul Lenihan, Tomás McNabola; Conor Hackett, Shane Mallon (0-8, 0-1 ‘65 & 0-2 frees); Cian Farry, Ashley Maizya (0-1), Niall Crowe; Cormac White (2-9, 0-5 frees), Ruairí King, Cormac Kane (0-1); Pádraig Kane (1-0), Seán Carthy, Ralph McKeon, Paddy Keane, Tommy Taylor, Conor Lyons, Eoin McLoughlin (0-2), Ciaran McMorrow.
Mentors: Hilary Phelan (manager), Ray Kelleher, Niall O’Riordan, Stephen McManus, Andy Phelan
LONGFORD: Daniel Gallagher; Jack Linnane, Shane Courtney, Diarmuid O’Donnell; Pearse McNally, Iarlaith Dolan, Adam Halpin; Donal Sheahan, Dean Wykes; Adam Connaughton, Adam Murray (1-5, 1-3 frees), Ali Iqbal; Dan Crossan, Conor Leonard, Liam Browne; John Murray, Stephen Muray, Christopher Faherty, Zach Tunstead, Michael Mulcahy, Jim Crossan, Jacob Crossan, Liam Kenny, Eoin Noonan, Patrick Crossan, Thomas Walsh, James Connell
Mentors: Carol Murray (manager), Niall Ward, John Nelson, Robbie Stakelum, Alan Wade, Séamus Hughes
REFEREE: Matthew Farrell, Roscommon