Longford blew a glorious opportunity of beating neighbouring rivals Westmeath in the O’Byrne Cup when they let a ten points lead slip in horrendous conditions at the St Loman’s GFC grounds, Mullingar on Wednesday night of last week.
Played on the astroturf pitch amid the driving wind and rain that soaked the supporters who were brave enough to stand out in the bitter cold, Longford were looking good when they established a commanding
1-10 to 0-3 advantage with the aid of the wild elements in the first half.
Keeper Paddy Collum came to the rescue with a couple of great saves in quick succession to deny John Connellan and Darragh Daly, the point-blank flick from the latter yielding the third point for Westmeath in the 23rd minute.
Midfielder Michael Brady cut in from the right to fire home a well-taken goal for Longford in the 16th minute while Brian Kavanagh fired over four of the points (three frees) and which included a cracking long range strike from play in stoppage time.
But Barry McKeon (two frees) was the only other starting forward (excluding Dermot Brady operating again as an extra defender) who managed to get his name on the scoresheet.
The unfortunate absence of Robbie Smyth (unable to play any part against Westmeath) proved to be a big loss in the attack who were guilty of kicking a few costly wides in the first half.
A brace of points from wing back Andrew Dalton, with fellow defenders Darren Gallagher and Colm P Smyth also on target, accounted for the remainder of the tally but Longford failed to register a solitary score in the second half and were very much on the defensive in protecting their big lead against a near gale force wind.
The tactic of defending deeply restricted the frustrated opposition to just four scores and with only nine minutes of normal time remaining Westmeath were still trailing by six points
(1-10 to 0-7) and appeared to be heading for a defeat.
But the home county (starting with seven members of the team that featured in last year's Leinster senior final loss against Dublin) then got their scoring act together in storming back to shoot seven points in a row.
The first came from substitute Lorcan Dolan with Callum McCormack, three from Kieran Martin (two frees) and Ger Egan (free) also on the mark to leave the sides all square in the 70th minute.
Longford made a few bad mistakes in the late collapse and the killer blow was struck when Denis Corroon landed the winning score in stoppage time, much to the bitter disappointment of Denis Connerton.
Longford manager Connerton has expressed considerable concern with the big number of players who have declined the chance to represent their county this season. And with emigration and injuries also hampering the cause the main objective of consolidating the Division 3 status in the National League could well develop into a difficult task.
WESTMEATH: Stephen Gallagher; Jack Donoghue, Francis Boyle, Kevin Maguire; Jamie Gonoud, Alan Stone, James Dolan; Shane Flanagan, Darragh Daly (0-1); Ronan Foley (0-1), Ger Egan (0-4, all frees), Denis Corroon (0-1); Kieran Martin (0-4, two frees), John Connellan, Callum McCormack (0-2).
Subs:- David Lynch for D Daly (injured, 24 mins); John Egan for J Donoghue (43 mins); Theo Watts for S Flanagan (44 mins); Daire Conway for R Foley (55 mins); Lorcan Dolan (0-1) for D Lynch (57 mins); Shane Corcoran for J Connellan (injured, 62 mins).
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels); Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard), Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara), Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-1); Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers, 0-2), Darren Gallagher (St Mary’s Granard, 0-1), Peter Foy (Longford Slashers); Michael Brady (Longford Slashers, 1-0), Brian Farrell (Mostrim); Shane Doyle (Kenagh), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s), Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s); Barry McKeon (Colmcille, 0-2, frees), Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes, 0-4, three frees), Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers).
Subs:- Paul McKeon (Colmcille) for S Doyle (43 mins); Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers) for D McElligott (46 mins); Francis McGee (Dromard) for D Gallagher (50 mins); Larry Moran (Killoe Young Emmets) for A Dalton (61 mins); Mark Hughes (Killoe Emmet Og) for B McKeon (66 mins); Paul McGee (Dromard) for D Masterson (injured, 69 mins).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).