Darragh Doherty on the attack for Longford against Leitrim in the Hastings Cup Under 21 football tournament semi-final at Allen Park on Friday night last. Photo: Declan Gilmore
In a cracking game played at a championship pace the Longford under 21 footballers showed a lot of character in coming from four points down late in the game to eventually overcome Leitrim in the Hastings Cup semi-final that attracted a big attendance to Allen Park, Newtownforbes on Friday night last.
Hastings Cup Under 21 Football Tournament Semi-Final
Longford . . . . 2-13 Leitrim . . . . 3-8
After suffering the significant setback of losing midfielder Shane Kenny, who was forced to retire injured with just two minutes gone in the game, Longford were still good enough to establish what appeared to be a comfortable 1-7 to 0-6 lead at the break with Aidan McElligott scoring the goal in the 26th minute.
McElligott (who replaced the unfortunate Kenny) got the vital touch to find the net following a direct ball in from Peter Lynn, at a stage when Leitrim were leading by 0-6 to 0-5 with four of their scores (three frees) coming from full-forward Keith Beirne.
Ryan O’Rourke and Jack Heslin were also on target for the visitors but Longford, lifted by the McElligott goal, finished the first half strongly with further points from David McGivney (free) and Dessie Reynolds.
McGivney fired over another couple of frees, with fellow Mullinalaghta clubman Rian Brady landing a brace of scores (free and play), while centre-half-back Reynolds registered the first of his two points for the home county in the 15th minute.
While there was another blow for Longford when wing back Cian Brady was forced to retire injured in the closing stages of the first half, Leitrim were also hampered when midfielder Conor Cullen joined the casualty list when he was withdrawn before the break.
Although Longford extended their advantage to five points when Darragh Doherty shot over the bar immediately on the changeover, Leitrim went on to enjoy their best spell of the game that yielded goals from Robbie Cunningham (42 mins), Jack Heslin (44 mins) and Oisin Madden (51 mins) to lead by four points, 3-8 to 1-10, and they hit the post during this dominant period.
Conor Gaffney and Keith Keegan also kicked a point apiece for this talented Leitrim team but Longford managed to remain in contention thanks to good scores from David McGivney and Rian Brady.
Manager Frank McNamee is working with a strong squad of players and that quality was illustrated as Longford regained the upper hand to score 1-3 without reply in the closing stages of this highly entertaining encounter.
The decisive second goal for the midlanders materialised in the 52nd minute when a penalty was awarded after Darragh Doherty was fouled by the opposing keeper Jack Burke and up stepped Nigel Rabbitte to plant the ball in the back of the net.
David McGivney then converted a free for the equalising score in the 55th minute and while Longford were reduced to 14 players when Cillian Lee was sent-off for a second yellow card offence in the 58th minute they still succeeded in emerging victorious thanks to late points from McGivney (free) and Robbie Clarke.
Unbeaten in four games and with a lot of momentum, Longford will go into the Hastings Cup final against Meath at Lynch Park, Abbeylara on Sunday next (throw-in 2.30pm) in a confident frame of mind as the preparations continue for the Leinster U-21 Championship quarter-final away to Kildare on March 1.
LONGFORD: Micheal Hughes (Killoe Emmet Og); James Moran (Young Grattans), Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish), Conor Farrell (Cashel); Cian Brady (Abbeylara), Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly's, 0-2), Russell Brady (Abbeylara); David McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba's, 0-6, five frees), Shane Kenny (Rathcline); Joe Kelly (Ballymahon), Nigel Rabbitte (Abbeylara, 1-0, penalty), Peter Lynn (Young Grattans); Rian Brady (Mullinalaghta St Columba's, 0-3, one free), Darragh Doherty (Mostrim, 0-1), Conor Berry (Abbeylara).
Subs:- Aidan McElligott (Mullinalaghta St Columba's, 1-0) for S Kenny (injured, 2 mins); Eoin Higgins (St Mary's Granard) for C Brady (injured, 26 mins); Cillian Lee (St Brigid's Killashee) for J Kelly (35 mins); Jayson Matthews (Mullinalaghta St Columba's) for A McElligott (40 mins); Ruairi Harkin (Colmcille) for P Lynn (49 mins); Robbie Clarke (Longford Slashers, 0-1) for D Doherty (52 mins); Sean Kelly (Carrickedmond) for D McGivney (black card, three minutes into stoppage time).
LEITRIM: Jack Burke; Philip Dolan, David Mulvey, Oisin Madden (1-0); Donal Feely, Keith Keegan (0-1), David Bruen; Dean McGovern, Conor Cullen; Jack Heslin (1-1), Ryan O'Rourke (0-1), Francis Flynn; Conor Gaffney (0-1), Keith Beirne (0-4, three frees), Robbie Cunningham (1-0).
Subs:- Brian Leyden for C Cullen (injured, 30 mins); James Mitchell for D Bruen (half-time); Luke Murphy for F Flynn (40 mins).
Referee: Conor Dourneen (Cavan).