In a competition that continues to create ideal preparation for the championship campaign, the honour of winning the Hastings Cup this season was almost achieved by the Longford U-21 footballers who were on the brink of a morale boosting victory over Cavan after defender Darragh Bennett pounced on the breaking ball to fire home a goal in the 58th minute of the four-county tournament final played in stamina testing conditions at the Abbeylara grounds on Saturday last.
A big crowd of several hundred spectators gathered at a wet Lynch Park to witness this local derby and when the alert Bennett found the back of the net after another goal attempt from Robbie Smyth was blocked down, Longford were a point in front and looking good to capture the title. But a strong Cavan side (backboned by at least ten of the squad that reached the All-Ireland U-21 Final last season) kept their composure to engineer the equalising point in the 60th minute with substitute Nevin O’Donnell coming to the rescue in shooting over the bar.
There was still time for a last gasp winning score and while that opportunity came the way of Longford midfielder John Keegan, the Mullinalaghta man shot wide much to the relief of Cavan who went on to dominate the extra-time period in adding a further seven points to their tally through Sean Nolan, Jack Brady, Fergal Flanagan, Joe Dillon (2), Turlough Mooney and Shane Reilly.
The Cavan management team utilised the substitutes bench to significant effect and the fresh legs made the desired impact when the going got really tough. Unfortunate not to have won the game in normal time, Longford ran out of steam in the additional 20 minutes and all they could manage was a couple of late points from Marty Mulvey and Robbie Smyth (free).
To read the full match report, see this week’s Longford Leader.