It took Longford a considerable length of time to assert their superiority over London in the National Football League clash on Saturday last but a strong finish in the closing stages of the first half paved the way for a fairly emphatic victory in the end with ten points separating the sides at the final whistle.
While Longford are now the new league leaders in Division 4, a point clear of Wicklow who provide the opposition in the next round at Aughrim on Sunday next, Glenn Ryan will be demanding a big overall improvement on this scrappy performance as the quest for promotion continues in the garden county.
ALLIANZ NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION FOUR - Longford 1-15, London 0-8
No less than five goal chances were squandered during the course of the game and a total of eight wides were kicked in the first half much to the frustration of the Longford supporters, comprising the exiles and the small crowd who travelled over to the English capital for the weekend.
Having said that, Longford had to overcome the handicap of playing at a venue that was far from ideal and the decision to switch the National League fixture from Ruislip to the Tir Chonaill Gaels club grounds in Greenford was a serious cause for concern on such a difficult surface that was clearly not up to inter-county standard.
The Ruislip grounds were ruled out a couple of days earlier in order to facilitate the National Hurling League Division 3 game between London and Wicklow on Sunday following the fiasco the previous week when Leitrim travelled over to London for a Division 4 football fixture, only for the match to be postponed as the pitch was declared unplayable due to water-logging.
While the London GAA Board moved the game against Longford in plenty of time to make sure it went ahead, it was a most unsatisfactory situation at the Council owned grounds in Greenford which was a throwback to the 1970’s club scene in Longford when little or no facilities existed.
A rope around the pitch was all that separated the players from the supporters in the wide open Tir Chonaill Park on Saturday last with no dugouts and no scoreboard and fortunately it did not rain with no cover whatsoever for the small attendance in the region of 250, all of whom were admitted free.
While the Tir Chonaill Gaels club, complete with compact clubhouse and dressingrooms, deserve credit for staging the National League fixture, the game should have gone ahead as scheduled in Ruislip and particularly so with fine weather conditions prevailing throughout the weekend.
The Longford players and officials did end up in Ruislip, after all, for the post match meal and team manager Glenn Ryan was relieved that his side avoided the ambush in Greenford and managed to come away with the win in extending their unbeaten league run to four games – seven points out of a possible eight to go top of the table.
Speaking to the Leader after the game, Ryan said he would have settled for a one-point win in the circumstances coming over to London on the plane that morning and he was looking anxious when the spirited opposition held a slender 0-4 to 0-3 lead with 30 minutes gone in the game.
All Longford had to show for their efforts in the first half hour was a couple of frees converted by Sean McCormack while Donal McElligott was also on target for the visitors when he pointed from play in the 15th minute.
Numerous silly mistakes were being made by the Longford team, playing against the wind but with the advantage of the ‘hill’ in the first half, and McCormack was denied a goal in the 3rd minute when his flicked attempt to find the back of the net was stopped by the London keeper Brian McBrearty who produced a fine point-blank save.
Another clear-cut goal chance was squandered by Paul Barden who dragged his shot wide in the 11th minute and Longford led by 0-3 to 0-0 before London eventually opened their account in the 20th minute, full-forward Eoin O’Neill firing over a free.
Three more points quickly followed from O’Neill (free), Sean Kelly and O’Neill (play) as London hit the front and in between this promising period for the home side Longford missed another goal chance when Paul Barden got through but shot into the sidenetting.
But they gradually got their act together in firing over four points in a row through Paul Barden (2), Sean McCormack and Niall Mulligan between the 30th and 35th minute which left London trailing by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break and they faded right out of contention in the second half as the much fitter Longford side stepped up another gear to clock up 1-6 without reply.
Four of the points (three frees) came from McCormack with Mulligan and Barden also shooting over the bar and Paul was proving to be a constant threat to the London defence. After McCormack failed to convert another goal chance, Longford finally found the back of the net in the 58th minute when Paul Barden raced through to fire home a cracking goal.
London got their first score of the second half in the 60th minute when big midfielder Sean McVeigh landed a long range effort and a converted free followed from Eoin O’Neill before Longford corner-forward Sean McCormack was clean through with the goals at his mercy but he elected to pass to substitute Brian Kavanagh who failed to connect properly with the ball as his miskick drifted wide.
Kilmacud Crokes star Kavanagh, brought on in the 59th minute, was making his first appearance for Longford in 2011 and must be in contention to play from the start in the crunch clash against Wicklow next Sunday.
After London substitute Richard Dempsey fired over a point, David Barden got his name on the scoresheet in the 66th minute with a terrific strike and while he was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card for dissent moments later the good news is that he will be able to play against Wicklow
A point apiece were exchanged between Eoin O’Neill (free) and Paul Barden with time running out but Longford will have to improve on their finishing if they hope to register a rare win at Aughrim on Sunday next.
LONDON: Brian McBrearty; Aidan Savage, Barry Comer, David McGreevy; Kevin O’Leary, Marty McCoy, Noel Tuohy; Sean McVeigh (0-1), David O’Sullivan; Sean Kelly (0-1), John Collins (0-1), Conor Conneely; Padraig McGoldrick, Eoin O’Neill (0-4, three frees), Steven Boyle.
Subs:- Derek Hagan for P McGoldrick (half-time); Ciaran McCallion for A Savage (42 mins); Christopher Eastwood for D O’Sullivan (42 mins); Richard Dempsey (0-1) for J Collins (52 mins); David Carthy for S Kelly (61 mins).
LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan (Dromard); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Declan Reilly (Colmcille); Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta), Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard), Noel Farrell (Colmcille); Martin Brady (Sean Connolly’s), Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore); David Barden (Clonguish, 0-1), Paul Barden (Clonguish, 1-4), Niall Mulligan (Longford Slashers, 0-2); Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta, 0-1), Paddy Dowd (Clonguish), Sean McCormack (Killoe, 0-7, five frees).
Subs:- Peter Foy (Cashel) for S Mulligan (52 mins); John O’Shea (Carrickedmond) for B McElvaney (55 mins); Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes) for P Dowd (59 mins).
Referee: Declan Corcoran (Mayo).