Friday 23 February 2018

Horan hails young guns in Limerick fightback

Limerick 1-21
Longford 1-15
(after extra-time)

Daragh Conchir at Glennon Bros Pearse Park

The seismic shift in decibel levels at Pearse Park told the story. When Seán McCormack pounced on a blocked Peter Foy shot to put Longford ahead in the third minute of injury time, the vast majority of the 3,622 in attendance produced an ear-splitting roar.

By the time Limerick had shifted into a four-point lead early in the second half of extra-time, though, there was an eerie silence.

It was a tremendous win for the Shannonsiders, given that they had been shorn of the services of team captain Ger Collins, John Galvin, Stephen Lavin and Tom Lee due to injury and travel. With few even within their own county giving them a hope, they reminded us once again that they should never be underestimated.

"You're just delighted for them," said manager, Maurice Horan. "You're licking your wounds for five weeks and wondering is this match ever going to come around. We got the toughest draw we could have got and it's fantastic. I'm trying to put it into words."

The word used by young goalscoring hero Derry O'Connor was "buzzing" and certainly his introduction, along with that of Ian Corbett and Mike Sheehan, had a major bearing on proceedings. The trio scored a goal and six points between them.

"We trained very well since the Clare game," enthused Horan. "We were prepared. We said to keep backing ourselves, we'd have a cut. In fairness to the young guys that came on, they were great."

They key moment of the game came in the 63rd minute, when goalkeeper Brian Scanlon made a reflex save from a ground-shot by Francis McGee at a time when the home side were leading by three points. Johnny McCarthy made a rare run forward to point at the other end from the next attack and Limerick sensed a chance.

Points from Ian Ryan and Sheehan brought the sides level, but there was plenty of drama in the four minutes of injury time, as McCormack restored Longford's advantage, only for O'Connor to force extra-time.

Limerick were the team with the belief and the energy in that added 20 minutes and were three points ahead at the end of the first period.

Two McCormack frees reduced the margin to two but Longford had Declan Reilly and David Barden sent off on second yellow cards and Limerick made hay from the resultant space. Corbett was happy with a point from a one-on-one but O'Connor drilled a shot to the net with the final act to secure a remarkable victory.

Longford were dominant early on but failed to capitalise on that superiority. They began with serious intent, but McCormack wasted a glorious chance after just 15 seconds.

Paul Barden had a point soon after but dropped two other efforts short as Longford went on a severely detrimental spree that accumulated eight first-half wides, as against two for the economical Limerick.

Their two-point advantage after 15 minutes was scant reflection of their superiority but Limerick clearly took comfort from their opponents' profligacy. They took charge in the second quarter and notched up the next five points. Long-serving duo Stephen Kelly and Stephen Lucey led the way, and when Eoghan O'Connor showed good pace to point in the 34th minute, the Shannonsiders were leading by three.

Out of nowhere, though, Longford struck for a goal. McGee found Niall Mulligan with a sumptuous outside-of-the-boot pass and though Scanlon made a splendid save, the Longford Slashers man made sure at the second attempt. With McGee and McCormack adding points from play, Longford somehow led at half-time by 1-5 to 0-7.

Limerick continued to assert as they had done in the latter stages of the opening period in terms of possession, but this time it was their turn to find the wind no guarantee of scores.

What's more, Longford saw their conversion rate increase and with the excellent McGee, McCormack, David Barden and Paul Barden raising white flags, were a goal clear when Scanlon made that brilliant stop that kick-started a famous Limerick comeback.

Scorers -- Limerick: D O'Connor 1-2; I Ryan (3f) 0-4; E O'Connor, I Corbett 0-3; S Buckley 0-2; S Kelly, S Lucey, J McCarthy, M Sheehan, CP Smyth, B Scanlon ('45), S O'Carroll 0-1 each. Longford: S McCormack 0-8 (4f); F McGee 0-4; N Mulligan 1-0; P Barden 0-2; D Barden 0-1.

Limerick: B Scanlon; A Lane, J McCarthy, L O'Dwyer; J Riordan, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J Donovan, S Buckley; J O'Meara, S Kelly, P Browne; E O'Connor, I Ryan, S O'Carroll. Subs: M Sheehan for Lane (40); I Corbett for O'Dwyer (54); D Quaid for Lucey (65); B O'Brien for Donovan (66); D O'Connor for Kelly (69); E Barry for O'Meara (76)

Longford: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; CP Smyth, M Quinn, S Mulligan; B McElvaney, J Keegan; D McElligott, P Barden, N Mulligan; F McGee, B Kavanagh, S McCormack. Subs: D Barden for Keegan (h-t); P McCormack for McElligott (h-t); P Foy for McElvaney (59); N Farrell for Smyth (70); JJ Matthews for Kavanagh (79); McElvaney for N Mulligan (84).

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)

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