Connerton delight as early blitz sees Slashers make cut
* SLASHERS 3-13 RATHNEW 0-10
Leinster Club SFC 1st rd
HISTORY is not always made on the big stage or to widespread acclaim, but in their own quiet way Longford Slashers achieved a notable feat here.
Their one-sided victory over the Wicklow title holders Rathnew represented a first Leinster club championship win for the Slashers since 1989.
No need to hold the front page; trumpets won't be sounding, but the victory and the manner of its achievement was a source of satisfaction to manager Denis Connerton and his players.
"We're delighted. It's good to get over the first round of the Leinster. We haven't done that in 24 years, 1989, so it's a long time.
"On the two previous occasions we came out against Garrycastle who are hugely difficult to beat, so we're just glad to get over the first round," said Connerton.
The manager and his men enjoyed the result, but their 'prize' is a tough second-round fixture against mighty Portlaoise next Sunday.
Perhaps Slashers could have done with a tougher battle yesterday, but beforehand, the match looked to be set up on an intriguing basis.
Slashers had played just one league game in the four weeks since their county final win, while Rathnew were going into action just seven days after their Wicklow triumph.
Would Leighton Glynn and Co be carried along by the winning momentum, or would the tank of energy and inspiration be empty? Sadly for them, the answer was 'yes' to the latter question, as Rathnew manager Declan Byrne frankly admitted.
His side had been involved in a marathon three games before they overcame St Mary's in the Wicklow semi-final, and then came from seven points down at half-time to defeat Baltinglass in the final.
"We have a young team and, to be honest, our big target for the year was the county title. We had those big matches with St Mary's and then had to come from behind again to win the final, so we let the boys enjoy themselves for the few days afterwards," said Byrne.
"It was a big ask coming up here to play the Slashers. They are fit and very strong, and once they got those early goals in the first half, it looked as if it would be really embarrassing.
"But we made a few substitutions and battled hard in the second half. We're proud of what the lads have achieved this year, and hopefully they can learn from this for next year."
From start to finish, the Slashers were in control of this match, and never relented in their search for scores.
They had 2-6 on the board after 18 minutes, with fine strikes by Trevor Clendenning (13 minutes) and Mark Smith (18 minutes) the highlights.
Colin Smith was set up by Michael Brady just before half-time for the third goal, and the home side went into the interval leading by 3-6 to 0-5.
Rathnew had opened with marquee players James Stafford and Glynn operating at full-forward and in the half-forwards respectively, but diligent defending and quick counter-attacking play by Slashers prevented the Wicklow stars making an impact.
The Slashers expected a more aggressive, long-ball game from Rathnew but in the first half it was more a close-passing style employed by the visitors.
They opened it out in the second half, but there was no denying the superiority of the Slashers as Barry Gilleran and skipper Dermot Brady anchored the home team's defence efficiently.
Big Michael Brady had a super game in midfield alongside David Sheridan, and up front Colin and Mark Smith plundered 1-3 each.
Trevor Clendenning contributed 1-1 to the Longford cause and helped maintain the Slashers' attacking impetus, particularly in the first half.
Rathnew, in fairness, tried their best but it was a match too far for them. Tommy Gill, scorer of 0-6 (5fs) gave his all and was the pick of the team.
The Slashers must now turn their attention to the next challenge against Portlaoise.
"Portlaoise are the kingpins of Leinster championship football with seven titles, so it will be a massive game for us," said Connerton.
"It's going to be very difficult, and we know that but we'll just prepare as best we can over the next six days and see where we go from there."
Recently-appointed Longford manager Jack Sheedy was at the match and was meeting with county board officials afterwards to discuss further details of his plans for the 2014 campaign.
Scorers – Longford Slashers: M Smith (2fs), C Smith (3fs) 1-3 each, T Clendenning 1-1, N Mulligan, M Diffley 0-2 each, P Brady, P Dobson 0-1 each. Rathnew: T Gill 0-6 (5fs), S Kavanagh, E Doyle (f), L Glynn (f), J Hollingsworth 0-1 each.
Longford Slashers – C Farrell; D Glennon, B Gilleran, G Ghee; P Brady, D Brady, M Diffley; M Brady, D Sheridan; M Nevin, N Mulligan, C Smith; M Smith, T Clendenning, P Foy.
Subs: P Dobson for Foy (51), A Dalton for Nevin (51), S Flynn for Diffley (56), M Tarmey for M Smith (58), D Flaherty for Glennon (59).
Rathnew – P Dignam; J Snell, D Power, J Manley; S Murphy, A Merriman, E Glynn; S Kavanagh, T Smith; L Glynn, N Mernagh, E Doyle; T Gill, J Stafford, M Doyle. Subs: R O'Brien for M Doyle (13), P Merrigan for E Glynn (33), C Healy for Kavanagh (36), J Hollingsworth for E Doyle (40), A Clarke for Mernagh (48).
Ref – F Barry (Kildare)