Longford produced a superb performance as they knocked Division 1 beaten League finalists Derry out of the championship on Saturday evening.
It was the third time Longford defeated Derry in the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers but what made this win special was the fact they did it in the Oak Leaf County’s own ground.
Longford were completely written off for this game but as in previous years in the qualifiers you write them off at your peril.
Tactically manager Jack Sheedy got it right and for the first time this year his players put in a solid display for the whole match. Every player played their part in this terrific victory with Paul Barden showing once again what an exceptional player he is; his goal in the first half set Longford on their way to this memorable win.
When Mark Lynch scored Derry’s second goal to draw the game, 2-11 to 1-14, in the 64th minute Longford heads didn’t drop and they hit back with a goal of their own through substitute Mark Hughes.
It was evident then that Longford had belief in their own ability. They had a desire to win and Brian Kavanagh sealed the win with a pointed free in stoppage time.
Derry started the game well and hit over three points inside the opening six minutes; James Kielt (free), Enda Lynn and a good point from Terence O’Brien. After a slow start Longford registered their first point on the board through Sean McCormack (free), Kavanagh followed up with a good point before McCormack hit over another free to level the game in the 15th minute.
Mark Lynch fired over an excellent point from long-range to give Derry the lead in the 17th minute before Longford created two goal chances; Barden brought a fine save out of Derry keeper Thomas Mallon in the 18th minute and four minutes later the netminder denied the Clonguish player again.
Longford were to rue those missed chances because Derry responded with two excellent points from Lynch and a good effort from Kielt to put the home side 0-7 to 0-3 ahead with 25 minutes elapsed.
Wing-back Colm P Smyth got a much needed point for Longford in the 27th minute and then minutes later they drew level when Barden received a good ball in from Kavanagh and finished to the net.
McCormack followed up with a good point to put Longford ahead for the first time, 0-7 to 1-5, in the 31st minute and then Barden fired over a great point to give his side a two point lead at the break.
Two minutes into the second half and Derry thought they’d grabbed a goal of their own but Lynch’s effort was well caught on the line by Longford defender Barry Gilleran. Longford were playing with real vigour and confidence and went four ahead, 0-7 to 1-8, by the 38th minute thanks to Shane Mulligan and a fine Michael Quinn score.
Derry’s reply was a ’45 from substitute Benny Heron but Longford hit back with an excellent Quinn point; the Killoe clubman was exceptional in the middle of the park and formed a good partnership with Kevin Diffley.
Longford enjoyed plenty of possession but failed to tag on scores while Derry were living off scraps. A Lynch free brought them to within two of Longford in the 46th minute but Longford full-back Gilleran hit over a good point to restore his side’s three point advantage. Kavanagh followed that up with a nice point to put four between them again in the 53rd minute.
Derry were struggling to get a real hold on proceedings while Longford’s defence were resilient. Terence O’Brien got a point in the 54th minute but a long kick-out from Damien Sheridan found McCormack he played the ball to Francie McGee who fired over a good point. There was now four between them again.
Quinn then set-up Barden and he extended Longford’s lead to five, 0-11 to 1-13, with 10 minutes remaining.
Derry knew that if they were to have any chance of getting something out of the game they needed a goal and they got one in the 61st minute through Benny Heron to leave just two between the sides. Longford replied with a McCormack point before Derry drew level in the 64th minute when Lynch fired a fantastic strike to the net, 2-11 to 1-14.
Teams though are at their most vulnerable just after they score a goal and one minute later Longford got their second goal of the game through substitute Hughes to leave them three points clear with just five minutes remaining.
McGee hit over his second point to put four between the sides, 2-11 to 2-15, but three Derry points in a row made for a nervy finish before Kavanagh fired over a free to settle the issue. It was too late for Derry and they couldn’t muster up a goal as the underdogs who finished twenty places behind the Oak Leaf men in the NFL claimed a huge win.
LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan; Dermot Brady, Barry Gilleran (0-1), Fergal Battrim; Colm P. Smyth (0-1), Enda Williams, Shane Mulligan (0-1); Kevin Diffley, Michael Quinn (0-2); Barry O’Farrell, Francie McGee (0-2), Aidan Rowan; Paul Barden (1-2), Brian Kavanagh (0-3,1f), Sean McCormack (0-4,2f).
Subs: Mark Hughes (1-0) for Rowan (62 mins), Niall Mulligan for Diffley (64 mins).
DERRY: Thomas Mallon; Oisín Duffy, Chrissy McKaigue, Aidan McAlynn; Gareth McKinless, Mark Craig, Seán Leo McGoldrick; Mark Lynch (1-4,2f), Kevin Johnston; Aaron Devlin, Emmet Bradley, Enda Lynn (0-2); James Kielt (0-4,1f), Terence O’Brien (0-3), Ciarán McFaul.
Subs: Gerard O’Kane for McAlynn bc (14 mins), Benny Heron (1-1, ’45) for Duffy (24 mins), Niall Holly for Bradley (half-time), Daniel Kinless for Devlin (41 mins).
REFEREE: Marty Higgins (Fermanagh).