A very much depleted Longford side showed great heart and character as they earned promotion to the Nicky Rackard Cup next year after getting the better of Sligo in the promotion play-off at the Ballinamore grounds on Saturday last.
Due to other commitments Longford had to field without 8 regulars and could name just one substitute. In an excellent game of hurling Longford put in a terrific performance with every player playing their part but Joe O’Brien and Cian Kavanagh were the stand out performers.
Sligo started brightly and registered the opening two scores with a free and pointed penalty from Keith Raymond. Longford’s first score came in the 6th minute with a free from O’Brien. Kavanagh got his first score one minute later before O’Brien put Longford ahead with his second free. Gary Waldron drew Sligo level in the 11th minute before Longford hit a purple patch and added five points in a row.
Three from Kavanagh (one free), O’Brien and a well-taken score from corner-back Karl Murray stretched their advantage to five by the 17th minute. Two Waldron points brought Sligo to within three of Longford.
A nice move involving Kavanagh and Martin Coyle resulted in Luke Kelly grabbing Longford’s first goal in the 21st minute but Sligo replied with a goal from Kevin Gilmartin. They followed up with two points to cut the lead to one before Gerard Moore got a point for Longford.
In the 35th minute Sligo went ahead with a goal from Keith Raymond but another Joe O’Brien free meant the sides were level going in at the break, 1-10 to 2-7.
Raymond hit over the opening point of the 2nd half but Longford hit back with a great goal from O’Brien. Points were traded between Raymond (free) and Martin Coyle before Sligo went ahead by two in the 45th minute; a Gilmartin goal and Raymond free.
Longford regained the lead in the 51st minute with a stunning long range goal from Cian Kavanagh. O’Brien hit over another free before Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch made it a one point game again but Longford responded with four points in a row from O’Brien (three frees) to give them a four point lead by the 58th minute.
Raymond hit over a point and in the 62nd minute and then Sligo had a goal disallowed for a square ball. Murray got his second point for Longford before Raymond was on target again (free) but that was as close as they got and in stoppage time Joe O’Brien hit over the insurance point to claim a well deserved win for Longford.
LONGFORD: Paddy Cullen; John Gaffney, Brendan Stakem, Karl Murray (0-2); Paddy Corcoran, Conaire Flanagan, Ciaran Corcoran; Johnny Casey, Paul Barden; Luke Kelly (1-0), Martin Coyle (0-1), Kealan Cox; Joe O’Brien (1-9, 6f), Cian Kavanagh (1-4, 1f), Gerard Moore (0-1).
SLIGO: Sean Hayes; Matthew Davey, Jamie Kenny, Cathal Murphy; Ethan McGowan, Liam Reidy, Tom Brennan; Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch (0-1), Brendan Kenny (0-1); Gary Waldron (0-3), Ciaran Brennan, Keith Raymond (1-8, 5f); Eolan McCarthy, Kevin Gilmartin (2-0), Gary Cadden.
Subs:- Jonathan Durkin for Murphy (half-time); Eoin McDonagh for McCarthy (46 mins); Rory Brennan for Cadden (50 mins); Sean Quinn for O’Kelly-Lynch (70 mins).
Referee: John Keane (Galway).