New Mullinalaghta manager Gerry Lynn must have been pleased with the determined manner in which his side fought back to earn a draw against Longford Slashers in a repeat of last year’s Leader Cup Final at The Laurels on Friday evening last.
With their previous boss Gerry Fox stepping down in the aftermath of the disappointing league defeat against Fr. Manning Gaels at this same venue a few weeks ago, St. Columba’s needed a positive result to get back on track and the players duly delivered a decent performance for Mostrim clubman Lynn.
However, the home side left it very late to snatch a share of the spoils with county minor David McGivney firing over the equalising free in the fourth minute of stoppage time. McGivney scored a cracking goal in the 23rd minute of the first half to leave Mullinalaghta leading by 1-5 to 0-6 at the break but they looked in trouble when Slashers got on top in the second half.
The county champions stepped up another gear to gain control and held a decisive edge at midfield through the prominent pairing of Michael Brady and Niall Mulligan. Five points on the trot, four from Colin Smith (three frees), appeared to have swung the issue in favour of Slashers with Mulligan also getting his name on the scoresheet after landing a terrific strike.
But the visitors suffered a significant setback when full-back Peter Brady was sent-off in the 46th minute after receiving a black card and while the Slashers defence were under considerable pressure thereafter, Mullinalaghta were guilty of kicking a number of wides.
Inspired by the driving force of James McGivney, St. Columba’s eventually registered their first score in the second half when the younger of the McGivney brothers, David, planted a powerful shot in the back of the Slashers net in the 54th minute.
David managed to find the space to fire home his second goal that left the sides all square (0-11 to 2-5) but a Mullinalaghta defender was penalised for overplaying the ball and up stepped Colin Smith to convert the free in the 59th minute.
Back came St. Columba’s and substitute Eric Sullivan fisted the ball over the bar after making an excellent catch from a direct ball into the heart of the Slashers goalmouth.
After sustaining a knock to the knee during the course of the second half, county captain Dermot Brady was eventually forced to retire injured right at the end of normal time and which could be a cause for concern with less than two weeks to the Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-final against Wexford at Pearse Park.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Slashers looked to have won the Division 1 match when the deadly accurate Colin Smith fired over his ninth point but Mullinalaghta were given the opportunity to engineer another attack and referee Patrick Maguire awarded a free which was duly converted by David McGivney.
A draw was probably the fairest result in this tight contest and while the wet conditions made it difficult for the players they still succeeded in serving up some entertaining passages of football.
It was good to see Stephen Phillips back in action for Slashers after a lengthy injury absence that ruled him out of the championship winning season in 2013 and his return is a considerable boost for the Connolly Cup holders. After replacing the injured Martin Nevin in the closing minutes of the first half, Phillips proceeded to make a lively impact on the changeover.
However, Barry Gilleran was unable to line-out for his club as he continues to recover from the foot injury that forced him to miss the Leinster Championship clash against Offaly and at this stage must be considered doubtful for the Wexford game.
Reflecting back to the club fixture at The Laurels, Mullinalaghta held a slight edge in the first half thanks to the David McGivney goal with their points coming from Ruairi McElligott, Gary Rogers, Jayson Matthews, David Donohoe and Aidan McElligott.
Colin Smith (3), Brian Walsh (2) and Trevor Clendenning replied for Slashers, who were fortunate not to concede another goal when John Keegan fumbled a goal chance for St. Columba’s in the 16th minute but both sides will be satisfied with the eventual outcome.
MULLINALAGHTA ST. COLUMBA’S: Patrick Rogers; Luke Meehan, Shane Mulligan, Simon Cadam; Aaron Earley, James McGivney, James Mooney; John Keegan, Ruairi McElligott (0-1); Conor McElligott, Gary Rogers (0-1), David Donohoe (0-1); Aidan McElligott (0-1), Jayson Matthews (0-1), David McGivney (2-1, point from free).
Sub:- Eric Sullivan (0-1) for R McElligott (50 mins).
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Colm Farrell; Shane Rodgers, Peter Brady, Shane O’Connell; Sean Flynn, Dermot Brady, Marc Diffley; Niall Mulligan (0-1), Michael Brady; Trevor Clendenning (0-1), Colin Smith (0-9, seven frees), Andrew Dalton; Martin Nevin, Peter Foy, Brian Walsh (0-2).
Subs:- Stephen Phillips for M Nevin (injured, 28 mins); Darren Flaherty for S Rodgers (half-time); Brian Farrell for P Brady (black card, 46 mins); Tadhg Maher for D Brady (injured, 60 mins).
Referee: Patrick Maguire (St. Mary’s Granard).