Longford reached the Fr. Manning Cup Tournament Final for the first time in quite a few years and the current bunch of county U-16 footballers are progressing well under the management team of Tony Devlin (Clonguish), John Coyle (Mostrim) and Finbarr Meehan (Northern Gaels) after winning their fourth game in a row at O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Thursday evening last.
Needing a victory over Offaly to make sure of their place in the title decider at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Wednesday August 8th with the also unbeaten Roscommon providing the opposition, Longford experienced little difficulty in getting the better of the rather poor faithful county and the return of regular midfielder David McGivney was a big boost.
McGivney missed the slender win over Sligo the previous week due to illness and he was back on the team against Offaly to form a strong centrefield partnership with Aidan McElligott. The powerful Mullinalaghta duo (members of the county minor team this season) were much to the fore in scoring six points between them and the game was all over as a contest at the break with Longford holding a commanding 1-10 to 0-3 lead.
Others to figure prominently for the visitors were half-backs Aaron Earley and Darragh Gilna and they were involved in the move (along with the also effective centre-half-forward Nigel Rabbitte) that created the chance for Shane Kenny to fire home a well struck goal in the 18th minute.
The lively Rabbitte landed a brace of points in the early stages of the game while the other Longford scores in the first half came from McElligott (two frees), Kenny, Rian Brady (3, 2 frees), Michael Corcoran and McGivney.
Offaly were unlucky not to grab a goal in the 13th minute when their full-forward Jamie Evans hit the post but the rebound broke to Mark Garry who shot over the bar. Their other two points in the first half were registered by Garry and Evans and the home county added another 1-3 to their tally in the second half.
Substitute Patrick Dunican got the goal in the 38th minute when his shot was deflected to the net by an unfortunate Longford defender while the points were fired over by Ryan Daly and Michael Butler (two frees).
Although Longford did not play as well in the second half, the damage was already done but they still managed to score another six points on the changeover through David McGivney (2), Rian Brady (2, 1 free), Aaron Earley (capping a fine display) and Aidan McElligott (free).
The mentors may use the remaining group fixture against Roscommon in Tarmonbarry this Wednesday evening (throw-in 7.30pm) to give a run to other members of the squad in the build-up to the Fr. Manning Cup Final – a coveted title that Longford last won back in 2001.
OFFALY: Mark Condron; Aaron Whelan, James Lawlor, Dale Sheridan; Christian Brazil, Jack Egan, Tristan Lambe; Adam Mangan, Ryan Daly (0-1); Mark Garry (0-2), Michael Butler (0-2, frees), David O’Toole; Glen Mooney, Jamie Evans (0-1), Ruairi McNamee.
Subs:- Patrick Dunican (1-0) for D O’Toole (35 mins); Cain Brereton for M Condron (41 mins); Evan Galvin for G Mooney (53 mins); Ryan Havel for R Daly (58 mins).
LONGFORD: Luke Meehan (Northern Gaels); Eoin Higgins (Granard/Ballymore), Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish), Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s); Aaron Earley (Northern Gaels, 0-1), Darragh Gilna (Killoe), Alan Sorohan (Clonguish); David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-3), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels, 0-3, all frees); Ronan Duffy (Clonguish), Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels, 0-2), Michael Corcoran (Clonguish, 0-1); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels, 0-5, three frees), Shane Kenny (Rathcline, 1-1), Rory Sullivan (Moydow).
Subs:- Barry McKiernan (Northern Gaels) for R Duffy (42 mins); Mark Tully (Granard/Ballymore) for E Higgins (46 mins); Sean Costello (Longford Slashers) for R Sullivan (58 mins); Enda Macken (Colmcille) for S Kenny (58 mins).
Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath).