Derry caught in Longford trap

Derry 2-14 Longford 2-16

Derry caught in Longford trap

Another championship body before the championship has properly begun. Division 1 league finalists, respected, almost feared in some quarters by the time May came, and three games have blown their season to pieces.

Longford were, quite simply, the better team. They had the better plan. Theirs worked and Derry’s didn’t. The blue shirts just sat in wait, laying a trap for a prey that kept walking into it. Derry carried the ball into the Longford rearguard, were turned over, and punished on the counter throughout this game.

Were it not for Thomas Mallon’s two saves in the first half — denying Paul Barden twice from point-blank range — it could have been worse. But there was to be no third denial. He burst off Brian Kavanagh’s shoulder 29 minutes in and fired past Mallon, levelling the game at 0-7 to 1-4.

The visitors had been the better side up to that point. A couple of majestic individual efforts from Mark Lynch and one from James Kielt masked the fact that Jack Sheedy’s side had enjoyed the better of it. They soaked up pressure and hit Barden and Kavanagh early. Those two were given acres of space, with Derry’s sweeper system completely ineffective, and they revelled in it. Longford led by 0-7 to 1-6 at the interval.

You look through the Longford team and you see individual performances that stood out right through their team. You could literally pick as many as 12 of them as having played well. Francis McGee and Paul Barden, who has often tormented Derry, were at the hub of everything, though. The scores that Michael Quinn kicked in the second half were sublime, one off either foot. The timing of Kavanagh’s runs made him so hard to defend against.

“It’s easy to say when you’ve come out the right side of the game but we knew we were capable of a performance like that,” said their manager Jack Sheedy.

“There are good players there and guys really stood up. They really deserved the win and we would have been massively disappointed had we lost the game.”

They almost contrived to lose it. Despite the fact they appeared comfortable holding a four-point lead midway through the second half, it almost turned against them very quickly indeed.

A scrappy Derry move ended with the ball at Benny Heron’s left foot and he volleyed it almost through Barry Sheridan to bring the home side’s arrears back to two.

Longford pulled away again but with five minutes to play, Mark Lynch strode through and from 18 yards, hit a goal of the season contender into the top corner. Level at 2-11 to 1-14, Derry won the next kick out and seemed set to steal it.

But they didn’t deserve it.

Longford stole the ball back and worked it to sub Mark Hughes, who had sneaked completely unannounced around the back of the Derry cover and walked around Thomas Mallon to put it in the net.

Francis McGee pointed instantly to put four in it, but Derry came again, with James Kielt finding space twice to flash over. It was back to a point but Brian Kavanagh finally put it to bed with the injury-time clincher from a 30m free.

Game-changer

The only time in the game Derry looked to have any sort of handle on it was when Mark Lynch almost tore a hole in the top corner and levelled it, but Mark Hughes sneaked in instantly to net for Longford.

Talk of the town

Derry was very quiet, with just over 2,000 in attendance, and they could hardly believe it as their side again exited the championship.

Did that just happen?

The above goal.

Best on show

Francis McGee twisted and tormented the Derry defence from centre-forward.

Black card watch

Referee Martin Higgins was brave to give Aidan McAlynn an early one for pulling the man’s arm in while in possession, and thereafter there was little in the way of incident.

Sideline superior

Jack Sheedy sat at home and watched Derry beaten by Donegal, little knowing he would have to devise a plan for the Oak Leafers. He followed Jim McGuinness’ template, and it worked again.

The man in black

A few debatable decisions but generally Martin Higgins did ok.

What’s next?

Longford wait on the draw for the second round of qualifiers. Derry will be well rested by their next outing.

Scorers for Derry: M Lynch 1-4 0-2f, J Kielt 0-4 (1f), B Heron 1-1 (0-1 45),T O’Brien, E Lynn 0-2 each, SL McGoldrick 0-1.

Scorers for Longford: P Barden 1-2, S McCormack 0-4 (2f), B Kavanagh 0-3 (1f), M Hughes 1-0, M Quinn, F McGee 0-2 each, B Gilleran, CP Smyth, S Mulligan 0-1 each.

DERRY: T Mallon; O Duffy, C McKaigue, A McAlynn; G McKinless, M Craig, SL McGoldrick; M Lynch, K Johnston; A Devlin, E Bradley, E Lynn; J Kielt, T O’Brien, C McFaul.

Subs: G O’Kane for McAlynn (bc, 12), B Heron for O Duffy (24), N Holly for E Bradley (ht), D McKinless for A Devlin (41), R Bell for C McFaul (66).

LONGFORD: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, F Battrim; CP Smyth, E Williams, S Mulligan; B O’Farrell, K Diffley; M Quinn, F McGee, P Barden; A Rowan, B Kavanagh, S McCormack.

Subs: M Hughes for A Rowan (62), Niall Mulligan for K Diffley (63).

Referee: M Higgins (Fermanagh).

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