Delight for Longford as Ryan rules roost

THE smile on Glen Ryan’s face said it all.

Had it been Longford on the wrong side of that one-point deficit the likelihood is that it would have been him and not John O’Mahony saying farewell to the troops in the bowels of Pearse Park.

Longford did come within four points of taking Kerry’s scalp at the same venue 12 months earlier but that had been a solitary peak in a valley of troughs since the former Kildare All Star took control.

Appointed in October of 2008, Ryan was unable to prevent Longford sliding into Division Four in his first year and only London and Kilkenny kept them off the foot of the country’s football ladder this spring.

Discontent was airborne long before the Leinster Championship exit to Louth late last month and yet the scenes of joy two nights ago will hardly be outdone in Croke Park itself come September.

What a difference a win makes.

“It was hunger and desire to go get a result and all we asked from the lads was that they gave everything they had,” said Ryan who admitted that he has had little to cheer about during his tenure until now.

“Football-wise, I would say we can improve on the quality but that isn’t what it was about. It was about heart and commitment and, to a man, every fella produced that.”

It is already being portrayed as the shock of the championship but the signs of just such an outcome were hardly buried out of sight for those willing to dig that little bit deeper.

Mayo’s problems were there for all to see after their dismal showings against Cork in the league final and Sligo in Connacht while the word in Longford was of a side coming nicely to the boil.

A comprehensive nine-point defeat of Westmeath and a routine defeat of Carlow in recent challenges may not sound like much but it was a rich source of optimism in a county that usually subsists on meagre rations.

“What we never had in my time here was a couple of results back to back. I know they were only challenge games but when you are looking for results whether they be challenge games, O’Byrne Cup or championship, you are happy to get a win or a draw or whatever is going and we built up a bit of momentum.

“It certainly helped our confidence levels.”

That it did.

Though the visitors dominated early on, Longford were only three points behind at half-time having faced a stiff breeze and they took the lead by cornering Mayo on the ropes with a barrage of 1-4 inside eight minutes.

Wing-forward Paddy Dowd was the spark and his ability to escape the clutches of two defenders allowed him play in Paul Kelly for the game’s only goal with 18 minutes to go.

Longford had leaders all over the pitch. Mayo’s were less numerous but the best efforts of Alan Freeman, Alan Dillon and Donal Vaughan kept them afloat even after Keith Higgins was sent off in the 65th minute.

“We had a tentative enough start to the second-half,” said Ryan. “Mayo kicked some fantastic scores into what was a very tricky breeze blowing right into their faces but our fellas reacted in a very positive way.

“It was probably in a manner that we haven’t seen all year. There is no doubt about it, this is just small recompense for the efforts that these fellas have put in.

“That’s how I look at it.”

It was no classic and, as Ryan pointed out, Longford have left themselves with ample room for improvement but they remain a dangerous opponent on the tight confines of Pearse Park.

Derry have also tasted defeat there in the qualifiers in years gone by while Dublin and Kerry have both left the midlands town with an air of relief after too-close-for-comfort championship appointments.

Most counties will be hoping for a particular opponent when the second round draw is made on TV early this morning. Glenn Ryan will still be smiling no matter who they get.

Especially if they get them at home.

Scorers for Longford: F McGee 0-4 (3f), P Kelly 1-0, B Kavanagh 0-3 (1f), S Mulligan 0-1, P Dowd 0-1, P Barden 0-1, K Mulligan 0-1, S McCormack 0-1.

Scorers for Mayo: A Freeman 0-5 (1f), A Dillon 0-3, A Moran 0-2 (1f), C Mortimer 0-2 (1f), S O’Shea 0-1, B Moran 0-1.

Subs for Longford: P Kelly for Barden 35+1, P Foy for Hannon 60.

Subs for Mayo: L O’Malley for McLaughlin 35+1, M Ronaldson for O’Shea 42, T Parsons for Howley 54, T Parsons for Howley 54, BJ Padden for Harte 65.

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