Longford ladies scored a most significant victory in their quest to qualify for the knock-out stages of the All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship when they eventually got the better of neighbouring rivals Cavan in a tight Group C clash at the Mullahoran grounds on Saturday last.
By Padraic O'Brien
Diane O’Hora’s side showed a lot character to emerge victorious and particularly outstanding in yet another win for the county was exceptional forward Claire Greene who displayed deadly accuracy to shoot a total of ten points (six frees) during the course of the game.
Having said that, it might have been a different story but for some very poor finishing by a much changed Cavan side who were short several regulars for different reasons from the squad that lost out to Westmeath in the All-Ireland Intermediate title decider last year.
Cavan were guilty of kicking a total of 15 wides as compared to just 5 for Longford and still the outcome was very much in the balance as the sides were deadlocked at 0-7 apiece with ten minutes of normal time remaining.
Then up stepped Claire Greene to fire over a brilliantly struck long range free, awarded following a foul on midfielder Jacinta Brady who finished the game strongly and the Killoe player was also involved in the move that created the opportunity for Michelle Farrell (receiving a pass from Aisling Reynolds) to shoot over the bar in the 56th minute.
Moments later Cavan had a chance of a goal but substitute Geraldine Sheridan failed to make proper contact with the ball in a poor effort and their hopes were eventually dashed when Claire Greene fired over another couple of frees in stoppage time to extend the Longford lead to four points.
It mattered little that two Longford players, Greene and prominent substitute Orla Noonan, were then sin-binned after receiving yellow cards from whistle happy Westmeath referee Des McEnery who hit the Leinster champions with a number of harsh decisions that got a very angry reaction from some of the away supporters throughout the game.
But Longford still managed to survive in extending their impressive unbeaten run and will go through directly to the All-Ireland semi-final should they succeed in winning their remaining fixtures in the group stages against Roscommon (away) and Sligo (home).
Longford played against the wind in the first half against Cavan but ended up leading by 0-6 to 0-5 at the break with all the points coming from Claire Greene while on target for the home county were Roisin O’Keeffe (2), Aisling Doonan ( 2 frees) and wing back Mona Sheridan.
The second half was only a couple of minutes old when Aisling Reynolds missed a great chance of a goal for Longford in shooting wide from close range but the advantage was extended in the 36th minute by Claire Greene who landed her fourth point from play.
Cavan showed a fair amount of resolve to get back on level terms with points from Aisling Doonan (free) and Paula Fitzpatrick (46th minute) but they failed to register another score during the remainder of the game as Longford stepped up another gear to pull away.
CAVAN: Jenny Keane; Ciara Gray, Donna English, Ciara O’Reilly; Mona Sheridan (0-1), Ailish Cornyn, Sinead Greene; Rosie Crowe, Claragh O’Reilly; Caitriona Smith (Lavey), Roisin O’Keeffe (0-2), Paula Fitzpatrick (0-1); Daena Clerkin, Aisling Doonan (0-3, all frees), Caitriona Smith (Killygarry).
Subs:- Geraldine Sheridan for C Smith (Killygarry, 38 mins); Niamh Daly for D Clerkin (56 mins); Sheena McKiernan for Claragh O’Reilly (60 mins).
LONGFORD: Michelle Kilkenny (Dromard); Marie Brady (Clonguish), Elizabeth Brady (Killoe), Mairead Moore (Clonguish); Sinead Farrell (Rathcline), Michelle Noonan (Carrickedmond), Geraldine McManus (Milltown, Westmeath); Jacinta Brady (Killoe), Aisling Reynolds (Ballymore); Edel Quinn (Killoe), Claire Greene (Rathcline, 0-10, six frees), Sharon Treacy (Killoe); Anne Marie Bratten (Killoe), Anna McDonnell (Killoe), Aoife Darcy (Clonguish).
Subs:- Lauren Farrell (Rathcline) for S Farrell (21 mins); Michelle Farrell (Colmcille, 0-1) for G McManus (23 mins); Paula Kenny (Rathcline) for A Darcy (41 mins); Orla Noonan (St. Helen’s, Drumlish) for E Quinn (43 mins).
REFEREE: Des McEnery (Westmeath).