A great start from Longford Slashers set them on their way to becoming the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2012 Senior Football Championship. In the first 20 minutes of the game at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday evening last, Slashers played like champions and produced some wonderful football and scores. Mullinalaghta simply had no answer for them and struggled to compete.
The sides clashed two weeks before in the group stage of the championship with St. Columba’s winning by three points. That was a real wake-up call for Slashers and they didn’t want a repeat of that result. On their first half performance the defending champions will definitely take some stopping in their quest for three-in-a-row.
Mullinalaghta though can feel a little hard done by as they lost influential players James McGivney and Donal McElligott through injury and were guilty of missing a good few chances that fell their way.
Slashers were really up for this game and started with real purpose. Colin Smith’s free hit the upright and bounced wide in the 3rd minute but one minute later they opened the scoring. Stephen Phillips played a nice pass into Mark Smith and he drilled a low shot past St. Columba’s keeper Patrick Rogers.
Older brother Colin opened his account in the 7th minute, pointing a free after Phillips was fouled. Mullinalaghta got their first score in the 8th minute when John Keegan played the ball into Shane Mulligan and he fired over a point.
Slashers then took control again and added three points without reply. Stephen Phillips and Conor Clarke fired over neat scores before Mark Smith scored a very nice point in the 12th minute to stretch the lead to six points.
Points were traded between James McGivney and Gareth Ghee before Niall Mulligan got his name on the scoresheet with an excellent effort in the 21st minute. The industrious JJ Matthews got St. Columba’s second point in the 27th minute but disaster struck one minute later when James McGivney had to go off with a shoulder injury.
Points from Colin Smith and Stephen Phillips put eight between the sides just before the break but deep in first half stoppage time Mullinalaghta got a goal when a long free from Kevin Mulligan found Conor McElligott and he finished to the net to leave his side trailing by 1-8 to 1-3 at half-time.
But St. Columba’s were dealt another blow during the break as the injured Donal McElligott couldn’t take to the field for the second half. Still the Mullinalaghta side made a bright start on the changeover and points from Kevin Mulligan and a great JJ Matthews effort cut the deficit to three points in the 34th minute. But Slashers replied with two points from Martin Nevin.
Ruairi McElligott had a chance to grab another goal for St. Columba’s in the 47th minute but he dragged his shot wide and Kevin Mulligan followed up with a free two minutes later.
But then Slashers began to dominate again. Another Colin Smith free in the 51st minute gave them a five point advantage. The sky-blues kept possession well and St. Columba’s began to get frustrated and gave away a few needless fouls.
Colin Smith was on target again in the 60th minute, pointing another free to leave five in it but one minute into injury-time Mullinalaghta very nearly got a second goal. JJ Matthews played a good ball into the square but John Keegan fisted his effort over the bar.
Colin Smith finished the scoring in the third minute of additional time, pointing a lovely free from about 45 metres out, and Slashers can now look forward to a clash against Clonguish or Fr. Manning Gaels in the semi-final on Sunday September 16th.
LONGFORD SLASHERS: Colm Farrell; Gareth Ghee (0-1), Barry Gilleran, Peter Brady; Dermot Brady, Paul Kelly, Trevor Clendenning; Michael Brady, David Sheridan; Niall Mulligan (0-1), Colin Smith (0-5, four frees), Conor Clarke (0-1); Martin Nevin (0-2), Stephen Phillips (0-2), Mark Smith (1-1).
Subs:- Ruairi Barrins for T Clendenning (51 mins); Brian Farrell for S Phillips (56 mins); Andrew Dalton for N Mulligan (60 mins); Paul Devine for M Nevin (63 mins).
MULLINALAGHTA ST. COLUMBA’S: Patrick Rogers; Shane Mulligan (0-1), Donal McElligott, Francis Mulligan; Simon Cadam, Conan Brady, Thomas McCabe; Ruairi McElligott, John Keegan (0-1); Conor McElligott (1-0), James McGivney (0-1, free), Mel Dermody; Kevin Mulligan (0-2, one free), Gary Rogers, JJ Matthews (0-2).
Subs:- Seamus Corcoran for J McGivney (injured, 28 mins); Pat Reilly for D McElligott (injured, half-time); David Donohoe for M Dermody (43 mins); James Rogers for P Reilly (54 mins).
Referee: John Bannon (Legan Sarsfields).