By Colm Gannon, in Pearse Park, Longford
Tradition may be a key component in winning games, but it's no subsuite for heart, guts and sheer will to win. And on Saturday evening in Pearse Park, there was only one team that had it when it was required and that was Longford. The midlands men had only beaten London and Kilkenny in serious competitive football this year in division four of the league, and Mayo became the third team to fall to them in 2010 on Saturday evening. Mayo has seen many dark days and dark defeats, but this will surly rank up there right at the top.
Where to now for Mayo? Is it time to rip it up and start again, some serious questions and some proper answers will have to be delivered to the football people of Mayo who once again came out in their droves to support the team. When the chips were down, once again Mayo didn't have the answers. Seán McCormack was the man who won the game for Longford, right on 70 minutes when he picked the ball up in the left hand corner of the pitch, turned inside his man and fired a right footed shot over David Clarke's bar, Mayo were able to get the ball down the field just over half way before the final whistle was blown and bedlam broke out in the midlands venue. But it wasn't just McCormack who won this game for Longford, men like Francis McGee, Paddy Dowd, Brian Kavanagh, Bernard McElvaney and goalscorer Paul Kelly all stood tall when Longford needed it most. Where as on the Mayo side, Alan Freeman and Alan Dillon would be the only players who could really stand tall and saying that they gave their all for the 70 minutes.
Twenty minutes into the first half Mayo looked to have the game well under control when they led by 0-5 to 0-2 thanks to Alan Dillon's first point of the evening an effort clipped over the bar left footed from just to the right of the goal mouth after some neat interplay involving Andy Moran, Donal Vaughan and Conor Mortimer. Longford started to force Mayo on the back foot for the next ten minutes, with Brian Kavanagh bring Ger Cafferkey further out the field and beating him to a number of ball's after the Ballina man had started very brightly. Francis McGee scored his second point from a free with ten minutes left before the break and the gap was back to the minimum with seven minutes to go as Longford began to get to grips with the game. Mayo glossed over their poor second quarter performance with two points from Andy Moran in the final minute one from a 45' and one from play.
The home side had their bit between their teeth from the off in the second half, and McGee scored the first point of the terminal period two minutes in. As a sign of things to come for the rest of the half with 39 minutes gone, Mayo had the ball worked down the left flank, through Alan Freeman, Alan Dillon and Donal Vaughan, but they were unable to shape a scoring chance and the ball ended up back behind the Longford 45' before it was turned over.
The scoreboard went tit for tat over the third quarter, until the 51st minute, Mayo had the ball on the stand side of the field and Alan Freeman took a quick sideline into Andy Moran, the Ballaghadreen man was boxed into the end-line and he tried to fist the ball across the field to Mark Ronaldson who was waiting to strike, but Damien Sheridan in the Longford goal claimed the ball and it was worked down the park. Paddy Dowd picked up the ball and broke through the tackle of Trevor Howley before he sent the ball into the path of Paul Kelly who fired the ball past David Clarke at his near post to put Longford into the lead for the first time on a scoreline of 1-8 to 0-9. It was Mayo playing catch up from then on, when they final did catch up it was Alan Freeman who at times was leading a one man battle in the Mayo forward line on 34 minutes, his high looping effort gave hope to Mayo of extra time. Mayo even had a chance to win it a few seconds later, after Barry Moran won a clean ball in midfield and the ball was worked into Donal Vaughan, but it was a case of wrong man in the wrong place and the Ballinrobe man skewed the ball wide. The midlands men still had one more huge effort in them and it was enough for them to make their way over the finishing line, and draw a neat line under Mayo's interest in this years championship.
Mayo: A Moran (0-2, 1 45' ), S O'Shea (0-1 ), C Mortimer (0-1 ), A Freeman (0-5, 1f ), B Moran (0-1 ), A Dillon (0-4 )
Longford: F McGee (0-4, 3f ), B Kavanagh (0-3 ), P Kelly (1-0 ), P Dowd (0-1 ), P Barden (0-1 ), K Mulligan (0-1 ), S McCormack
Mayo: D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, T Howley; D Vaughan, K Higgins, K McLoughlin; S O'Shea, P Harte; A Moran, A O'Shea, A Dillon; C Mort, B Moran, A Freeman. Subs: L O'Malley for K McLoughlin (35 min ), M Ronaldson for A O'Shea (41 min ), T Parsons for T Howley (53 min ), BJ Padden for P Harte (65 min )
Longford:D Sheridan, D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; S Mulligan, E Williams, S Hannon; D Masterson, B McElvaney; P Dowd, P Barden, K Mulligan; F McGee, B Kavanagh, S McCormack. P Kelly for P Barden (35 min ), P Foy for S Hannon (60 min ),
Ref: G Ó'Conámha (Galway )