A LOW-KEY National Football League Division 3 performance in Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday was exploited by Longford who went top of the table after a five-point victory which flattered the winning side.
At the start of the competition soundings coming from the Carlow camp suggested there was a confidence in the camp they could stay in the division and possibly even get into contention for promotion. Now you could argue Carlow are, at best, even money to go in either direction.
At this stage in Carlow’s development the slow build-up which has worn down the lesser teams is only going to take last year’s promotion winners so far. They got away with it against Westmeath last week but only just. This time Longford got the breaks while Carlow were unable to turn their possession into scores. They need another dimension to their game.
Ironically, Longford created only one goal chance while the home side spurned two great opportunities in the first half to raise green flags.
Those chances came in the second quarter. On 22 minutes just after Sean Gannon was on the end of a passing movement which started inside their own half, the same player attacked down the left. Spotting Chris Crowley dashing forward in support, his pass was possibly just a little high. Instead of catching the ball Crowley elected to try and steer it home from close range. Unfortunately for Carlow, the opposition keeper Paddy Collum collected underneath his own crossbar.
Six minutes later another passing movement put in Conor Lawlor who drew the foul inside the small square. Longford were not happy with the decision and after what seemed an age, Daniel St Ledger placed the ball on the spot. His shot was well-struck. Collum went the wrong way but the ball struck the bottom of the right-hand upright at the O’Hanrahan’s end of the ground.
Immediately after that, to rub salt into the Carlow wound, Darren Gallagher landed his second free of the half to tie the scores 0-5 each at the interval.
Apart from Gannon’s effort, Carlow scores came through Darragh Foley who floated over two great balls with the wind in his back while Darragh O’Brien (an offensive mark brought forward) and Jordan Morrissey also pointed.
Longford weren’t that much better than Carlow and it took them an age to make use of the strong wind in their backs for all of the second half.
Carlow went back in front on 42 minutes thanks to Darragh O’Brien before the visitors hit a purple patch with Joseph Hagan, Liam Connerton, Colm P Smyth and Connor Berry all pointing in a five-minute spell.
It was galling to see Smyth’s effort elude Carlow hands and bounce over the bar but it was that kind of day for the home side.
They responded to the challenge, hitting back with two frees from substitute Paul Broderick. The Barrowsiders had the impetus but the short-passing game which goes on and on yielded little dividend. They could argue there was no use lofting in high ball which always favours the defending team, but it was frustrating to watch. If Carlow are to prosper in the division they are going to have to bring a bit of pace to their game up front.
From a home point of view, the game continued to be laden with irony. This time a route one ball from Colm P Smyth in on top of the small square was flicked home by Connor Berry to restore Longford’s four-point lead with 10 minutes left. Gallagher tagged on another free and with eight minutes to go Sean Murphy received a second yellow for hauling an opponent off the ball as he tried to get the game going again. Late on, Gallagher picked up a black card but the game was up by that stage.
It is back to the drawing board for Carlow. They will rue a lack of intensity to their efforts but at this stage it is clear their possession game, which they execute very well, is only going to take them so far at this level.
Longford: Paddy Collum; Darren Quinn, Andrew Farrell, Barry Farrell; Colm P Smyth (0-2), Barry McKeon, Daniel Mimnagh (0-1); Darren Gallagher (0-3 frees), Michael Quinn; Shane Donohoe, Nigel Rabitte (0-1), Mark Hughes; Peter Hanley, Liam Connorton (0-2), Peter Lynn. Subs: Joseph Hagan (0-1) for Lynn (h/t), Connor Berry (1-1) for Rabitte (47 mins), Darragh Doherty (72 mins),
Carlow: Robbie Molloy; Chris Crowley, Shane Redmond, Barry John Molloy; Jordan Morrissey (0-1), Eoghan Ruth, Conor Lawlor; Brendan Murphy, Sean Murphy; Sean Gannon (0-1), Darragh Foley (0-2), Shane Clarke; Diarmaid Walshe, Darragh O’Brien (0-2, 1-mark), Daniel St. Ledger. Subs: Paul Broderick (0-3 frees) for Walshe (39 mins), Benny Kavanagh for Clarke (69 mins).
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)