Longford pulled off the proverbial great escape in making an epic comeback to beat Cill Dara 29-22 in Silken Thomas Park writes Tommy Butler.
The guys showed “huge character by the boys to turn a 22-3 deficit around and score 26 unanswered points to pick up the BP win” explained Longford head coach Glenn Baskett.
“We didn’t have to say a lot at half-time, Benny took control himself, the boys knew they hadn’t played, and that had allowed Cill Dara to play their game.”
“We needed to tidy up the tackle area, and move the point of attack to make their D have to work” added Baskett.
“Andrew, Liam and David did what we want our spark plugs to do and bring an energy. Some direct work from Kieran and Benny and good field position work allowed us to build pressure.“
“Again a good day’s work for the group, tomorrow we look at the next opportunity which is Boyne, and after how they attacked us up there and their result today it’s gonna be another tough opportunity.”
The first-half was one to forget for Longford where nothing seemed to go right and Cill Dara were well on top.
Longford certainly had their chances and territory in the opening period but poor execution and Cill Dara’s prowess at the breakdown made it impossible for Longford to establish any kind of continuity.
Longford started the game off well and won two penalties, which they kicked into the Cill Dara 22 but unfortunately did not win either lineout.
Cill Dara tuned the ball over and moved the ball to the right, then worked an overlap down the wing, which was finished off well in the corner by Cill Dara winger Ryan Curran. To rub salt in the wound it was also superbly converted.
Longford then tried to get things going and put in plenty of effort but seemed a bit flat no matter the amount of perspiration.
They did manage to work a penalty on twenty minutes, which Ryan McHugh knocked over to bring the score to 7-3 but that was as good as it got for the away side for the next 30 minutes.
Cill Dara managed to hit Longford with a penalty and then a break way try, scored after poor management of the kick-off subsequent to the penalty conversion, to leave Longford suddenly 15-03 behind.
Consequently, Longford went into to half-time with a 12 point deficit to overcome.
All the Longford support were hoping for an inspirational team talk and reorganisation from Coach Glenn Baskett and Captain Benny McManus to inspire Longford to a big comeback.
However, it really felt like it was going to be one of those days when as the weather turned cold and wet, Cill Dara ran in an early converted try to leave Longford trailing by 19 points.
Just when a sense of despondency was beginning to set in in the away support, Longford bolstered by some reinforcements from the bench put operation ‘Great Escape’ into action.
Firstly, they seriously upped the intensity and cut out the errors. This was a general collective effort but led from the front by Captain Benny McManus and No.8 Kieran O’Gorman.
The turning of the tide was signalled by Longford turning early scrum pressure from Cill Dara on its head and putting the home sides scrum under pressure.
The first breach of Cill Dara’s line was fifteen minutes into the second half by super sub Andrew Beirne who finished off a sequence of great carries by the forwards.
Stage two was accomplished by out-half Colm Glynn 10 minutes later, when after sustained pressure by Longford forced a penalty a few metres out, he tapped and crashed over despite the best efforts of the Cill Dara defence.
As the Great Escape gathered momentum Cill Dara could not live with Longford’s intensity and next up it was Barry Stewart’s turn to draw the score level at 22-22.
It would have been easy for Longford to go back into their shells and settle for a draw after it looked very unlikely that Longford would get anything from the match.
However, Longford were not going to settle without putting the ‘Great’ into the ‘Escape’ and it was fittingly completed by Captain Benny McManus who drove over for a bonus point try with five minutes to go to put Longford into 22-29 lead.
Longford had some defending to do in the closing minutes but as the light faded it was Longford eyes that smiled as they secured the most epic of comebacks and kept their promotion hopes right on track.
It is a mark of a great side that even when everything seems to be going against you that you come again and again and never say die. If Longford secure promotion this season this will be the match on which it is built on.
The promotion push continues next Sunday with the visit of fourth placed Boyne.
Longford: P O’Farrell, H Connolly, D Quinn, Aaron Beirne, B McManus (C), B Stewart, K O’Gorman, K Rodgers, N Farrell, C Glynn, J McGowan, I McCormack, C Hughes, D Connolly, R McHugh, L Brady, P Dardis, Andrew Beirne, David Geelan, S Murphy