A DESPONDENT Longford goalkeeper Damien Sheridan doesn’t want the defeat by Down in the All-Ireland Qualifiers to be seen as another moral victory.
Longford made the Ulster side work all the way in a cracking game of football in Newry, despite the terrible weather and the fussy approach of referee Martin Higgins. A late rally in the final quarter saw the Leinster outfit cut Down’s eight points lead to three with as many minutes remaining. But try as they might, they could not close the gap.
Sheridan admitted: “It’s a bit of a sickener. One thing we have been saying is no more moral victories. We don’t want to look at it that way but some people will say that’s what it was. “Maybe we left ourselves with too much to do in the second-half. Six points down at half-time and maybe if it had to have been a couple less and if we had got going a little earlier in the second half it might have been different.”
Down dominated the opening spell and held a commanding 0-9 to 0-3 lead at the break. Martin Clarke had three points for the Mourne men while all of Longford’s scores came from Francis McGee frees.
The margin could’ve been a greater if Sheridan hadn’t been in superb form; first denying Benny Coulter with his feet and four minutes from the break the Dromard clubman pulled off a fantastic point blank save from Daniel Hughes.
On the restart Longford fired over three points but at the other end Down notched two. Then in the 54th minute Longford were dealt a massive blow when Down were awarded a dubious penalty which Clarke dispatched.
That score put eight points between them but Longford refused to fold and 1-1 from McGee halved the gap by the 57th minute. Sheridan admitted: “I know we got close but we never really got within touching distance of Down. We were always looking for that second goal. Anytime we got to three, they got to four. If we had just got going earlier. But that’s it — if! It’s another year of ifs.”
Down were reduced to 14 men in the 59th minute when Kalum King was shown a second yellow card. Another free from Clarke extended his side’s lead to five points three minutes later before Longford lost Shane Mulligan to a second yellow card. But Longford didn’t panic and instead took the game to Down in those closing minutes. A free from the impressive McGee and a fantastic Paul Barden point left just a goal between the sides with three minutes on the clock. Points were traded between Clarke and McGee in a nervy finish before Daniel Hughes, outstanding all night, pointed the insurance score in the final minute.
Despite the defeat Sheridan hopes Longford can build on this performance and the one against Mayo in the previous round: “Year after year we are always chasing the next little glimmer. We’ll regroup hopefully. There is a bit of potential there now where as six months ago you wouldn’t have picked that out. People had us written off and hopefully we have answered some of our critics. Hopefully the lads will stick together and come back again.”
Scorers for Down: M Clarke (1-5, four frees), M Poland (0-3, two frees), D Hughes (0-3), J Clarke, B Coulter and D Rooney (0-1 each).
Scorers for Longford: F McGee (1-7, six frees), P Barden (0-2), N Farrell (0-1).
Subs for Down: K McKiernan for Garvey (39), C Laverty for J Clarke (58), P Fitzpatrick for Poland (67), A Carr for Maginn (70).
Subs for Longford: N Farrell for Hannon (ht), P Kelly for K Mulligan (49).
Referee: M Higgins (Fermanagh)
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