Longford display tremendous character to score a deserved win over Derry

There is great belief in the current Longford squad and it must be said that they displayed tremendous character to score a deserved win over Derry in Round 1 of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers after conceding a couple of goals at crucial stages of a most exciting encounter at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday evening last.

The entertainment value was high as Glenn Ryan’s so committed side produced a storming finish to fire over four points without reply through Sean McCormack (two frees), Brian Kavanagh and substitute Padraig McCormack to clinch another most significant success in a remarkable season. Now the proud county players can look forward to another home game in the next round against Division 4 side Limerick on Saturday week, July 14th, and a great chance to make further progress through the back door.

An attendance in the region of 4,000 braved the cold and windy conditions to watch the action unfold and the vociferous home supporters certainly had plenty to shout about as their side just refused to be rattled in a very determined bid to recover from the bitter disappointment of letting victory slip from their grasp against Wexford in the recent Leinster Championship quarter-final replay at O’Connor Park in Tullamore.

From the spirit shown by excellent corner-back Declan Reilly in dealing with a number of dangerous Derry attacks to the deadly accurate corner-forward Sean McCormack who emerged as the matchwinner with the magnificent total of 11 points to his credit (nine frees), this was a serious team effort with all the players in action working extremely hard to achieve the desired result and home advantage proved to be a decisive factor.

Michael Quinn was the usual commanding figure at centre-half-back in effectively marshalling such a resolute defence who somehow managed to restrict the Derry star Paddy Bradley to just three points. Despite his ability to win so much possession the dangerman Bradley was kept well away from the Longford posts in the face of a packed rearguard in a tried and trusted gameplan.

It was left to roving corner-back Barry McGoldrick to keep Derry in the game as he popped up to score goals in the 54th and 68th minutes and that put the pressure firmly back on Longford when they looked like registering a comfortable victory.

Using their much greater pace to excellent effect in launching swift counter- attacks, there was a gasp of dismay when prominent wing back Shane Mulligan wasted a glorious opportunity of a goal when blasting the ball wide in the 67th minute with Francis McGee completely unmarked inside.

At that stage Longford were leading by 0-13 to 1-8 and moments later they suffered the setback of conceding a second goal when a sideline kick by Eoin Bradley was won by Barry McGoldrick in front of the Longford posts and he made no mistake in shooting to the roof of the net from point-blank range.

That left Derry leading by the minimum of margins (2-8 to 0-13) but the visitors failed to register another score as Longford stepped up another gear to shoot four points in a row with the long range score from Brian Kavanagh a truly inspirational effort that put the home side back in front.

Around 13 minutes of additional time was added on as a result of the neck injury sustained by midfielder John Keegan at the start of the second half and in a hectic finish with Longford in front by three points, the frantic Derry side tried to engineer a last gasp equalising goal but their efforts were all to no avail.

Ironically, the Derry goalscorer Barry McGoldrick was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card for his part in a brief fracas with time almost up. And in the last piece of action substitute Joe Diver won possession and forced himself and the ball over the line in a crowded goalmouth following a ‘45’ but Sligo referee Michael Duffy blew for a free-out for charging to signal Longford’s survival in a very tense situation.

Sean McCormack is proving to be a real class act in the scoring stakes and his huge haul of 11 points was outstanding, to say the least, as the Killoe sharpshooter produced an undisputed man-of-the-match performance in paving the way for a wonderful win even if Derry are no longer the force they used to be.

So it was no great surprise that Longford advanced to the next round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers in giving everybody a great lift amid all the doom and gloom in these difficult times and manager Glenn Ryan deserves a lot of credit for developing a fine team who will now play their fifth game in the 2012 championship.

David Barden did not start due to a recurring injury problem and he was replaced in the attack by Francis McGee who fired over the opening point with little more than a minute gone on the clock. Unable to play any part in the game against Derry was Paul Kelly, who is suffering from a swollen leg.

The first half developed into a real ding-dong battle and the sides were deadlocked at 0-5 apiece when John McCamley landed his second point for Derry in the 23rd minute. Also on target for the Ulster county were Emmet McGuckin, Mark Lynch and Paddy Bradley with a decent goal chance falling to full-forward Bradley in the 25th minute but he shot into the sidenetting.

After the early McGee point, Sean McCormack fired over three points (two frees) including a great strike from play near the sideline. Michael Quinn was also on the mark when converting a ‘45’ in the 14th minute and moments earlier McCormack squandered a great chance of a goal when set up by Shane Mulligan who went racing through the Derry defence.

The point-blank shot from Sean was saved by the opposing keeper Danny Devlin and there was another very lucky escape for Derry in the 33rd minute when Michael Quinn’s quick free put Bernard McElvaney (who enjoyed some good spells during the course of the game) in the clear but he elected to take his point when a goal was there for the taking.

Two more frees converted by Sean McCormack in the closing stages of the first half left Longford leading by 0-8 to 0-5 at the break and with the deceptive crosswind not of any real advantage the outcome was still very much in the balance.

Both sides were guilty of some poor finishing in the first half and direct from the throw-in on the changeover John Keegan took a tumble in suffering a knock to his neck and the game was held up for almost 11 minutes before the Mullinalaghta man (replaced at centrefield by David Barden) was stretchered off in a not-too-serious state.

Immediately Eoin Bradley kicked over a fine point for Derry to close the gap and a score apiece (frees) were then exchanged between Sean McCormack and Paddy Bradley before McCormack landed a well struck point from play.

But Derry got back on level terms in the 54th minute when Barry McGoldrick grabbed a goal after latching on to a centre from Paddy Bradley, only for Longford to battle back with points from Sean McCormack (free) and attacking wing back Colm P Smyth who was on target from a tight angle.

That left the midlanders 0-12 to 1-7 in front and after Paddy Bradley fired over a glorious long range point, McCormack converted a difficult free for Longford. Things got very tight indeed when Barry McGoldrick got the second goal for the visitors to edge them ahead by a point but that was as good as it got for Derry who were beaten by a better team.

For the remaining 15 minutes of the game due to the lengthy stoppage time, Derry were unable to deal with a wave of Longford attacks as captain Paul Barden finally began to make an impact in orchestrating the slick moves that yielded another 0-4 to a most impressive total of 17 points that was worthy of winning any game.

LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan (Dromard); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Declan Reilly (Colmcille); Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-1), Michael Quinn (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-1, ‘45’), Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s); Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore, 0-1), John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s); Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s), Paul Barden (Clonguish), Niall Mulligan (Longford Slashers); Francis McGee (Dromard, 0-1), Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes, 0-1), Sean McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-11, nine frees).

Subs:- David Barden (Clonguish) for J Keegan (injured, 45 mins); Padraig McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-1) for N Mulligan (57 mins); Peter Foy (Cashel) for F McGee (72 mins); Padraig Gill (Fr. Manning Gaels) for D McElligott (77 mins).

DERRY: Danny Devlin; Ryan Dillon, Chris McKaigue, Barry McGoldrick (2-0); Ryan Scott, Mark Craig, Sean Leo McGoldrick; Michael Friel, Patsy Bradley; Martin Donaghy, Mark Lynch (0-1), John McCamley (0-2); Eoin Bradley (0-1), Paddy Bradley (0-3, one free), Emmett McGuckin (0-1).

Subs:- Conleth Gilligan for M Donaghy (56 mins); Neil Forrester for E Bradley (74 mins); Joe Diver for Patsy Bradley (76 mins); Brian McCallion for M Lynch (79 mins).

Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).