Longford, who won the Fr. Manning Cup in such impressive fashion last year, are under pressure in their quest to retain the title after losing to Westmeath in the Round 1 fixture at Cusack Park, Mullingar.
Played in glorious weather conditions on Friday evening last, the current crop of Longford U-16 footballers were eight points down (2-5 to 0-3) approaching half-time.
The Westmeath dangerman, full-forward Ciaran Doyle, flicked home the opening goal in the 22nd minute after receiving the perfect pass from Billy Flynn, son of former Meath star Bernard Flynn who is a Westmeath U-16 mentor.
And a few minutes later wing back Darragh Healy finished the ball to the net to leave Longford with a real uphill battle. Having said that, the visitors went close to scoring a couple of goals when Cathal McCabe showed great pace to break through but shot over the bar in the 15th and 17th minutes.
Jason Matthews got the other point from a free in the 8th minute but Longford produced a strong finish to the first half which yielded a well-taken goal from substitute Paul Donnelly and a point apiece from Matthews and Conor Berry, the latter landing a brilliantly struck long range free.
Thus Westmeath led by 2-5 to 1-5 at the break and while they managed to remain in front until the finish, Longford might have avoided defeat with substitutes Colin Clarke and Tom McGee having goal attempts saved by the Westmeath keeper Sean Maher in the closing stages of the game.
The four Longford points in the second half were registered by Darragh Doherty, Cathal McCabe, Jason Matthews and Shane Mahon.
WESTMEATH: Sean Maher; Eoin Ryan, James Fox, Siya; Darragh Healy (1-0), Killian Doyle, Conor Kane; Joe Halligan, Sam Duncan (0-1); Niall Gavin (0-1), Morgan Mealiffe, Cathal Daly (0-1); James Finnegan (0-1), Ciaran Doyle (1-6, 2 frees), Billy Flynn.
Subs:- Darragh Egerton for D Healy (37 mins); Dylan Ledwith for M Mealiffe (41 mins); Billy Berry for B Flynn (41 mins); Cathal Moran for J Finnegan (50 mins).
LONGFORD: Dylan McGoey (Longford Slashers); Eoin Bartley (Slashers), Peter Hanley (Clonguish), James Moran (Grattan Gaels); Kevin Sorohan (Shannon Gaels), Conor Berry (Northern Gaels, 0-1, free), Cathal Lynch (Northern Gaels); Conor Mallon (Granard/Ballymore), Liam Barry (Slashers); Shane Mahon (Killoe, 0-1), Cathal McCabe (Colmcille, 0-3), Darragh Doherty (Wolfe Tones, 0-1); Jason Matthews (Northern Gaels, 0-3, one free), Colin Farrell (Clonguish), Robert Clarke (Slashers).
Subs:- Paul Donnelly (St. Vincent’s, 1-0) for C Farrell (15 mins); Tom McGee (St. Vincent’s) for D Doherty (44 mins); Colin Clarke (Clonguish) for R Clarke (50 mins); Ryan Moffat (Killoe) for C Lynch (56 mins).
Referee: Basil Cronin (Offaly).