Carroll steers Lancashire to impressive victory

Carroll steers Lancashire to impressive victory

LANCASHIRE                                3-21  (30)
LONGFORD                                   2-17  (23)

Lory Meagher Cup, Round 1

By Anthony McLaughlin at Páirc na hÉireann, Birmingham

LANCASHIRE'S ambition to return to Croke Park for the first time since 2019 took a promising step in the right direction last Saturday, a seven-point victory over Longford an excellent start to their Lory Meagher Cup campaign.

Successive goals from Ray McCormack and Darragh Carroll propelled Lancashire into a seven-point lead come the interval, one they maintained throughout a stop-start second period. More importantly, the manner of the victory for Liam Knocker’s side should give them confidence ahead of a tricky match away to Leitrim on Saturday.

For when Longford asked questions of Lancashire in the latter stages of the second-half, the team in black at Páirc na hÉireann always had an answer. They were ahead early on after Eoghan Clifford and Shane Madden both landed a brace of scores, Cathal Mullane and Liam Browne striking at the other end for the visitors. Yet Longford were to be undone by two long balls into Pat Burke’s goalmouth, McCormack and then Carroll lashing home beyond the Longford goalkeeper in quick succession.

Forced into three first-half substitutions, Longford needed to find a reaction to stem the tide and half-forward Mullane did his utmost to provide it with two successive points from open play but when Ronan Sheahan found himself through on goal he couldn’t convert beyond Wolfe Tones goalkeeper Pa Coates. Lancashire were happy to mix it up in the middle of the park, taking more points from distance through Finn Henry and Conor Madden before going long to find Carroll who narrowly blazed an effort over the Burke’s crossbar. Again Lancashire went looked for Carroll and the Fullen Gaels man almost bagged his second goal again but for a brave point-blank save by Burke.

Mullane picked up immediately from the restart to bring Longford back to six but successive frees from Robin Spencer stretched the Lancashire advantage. The visitors were proving a more tricky customer in this second period as they grinded it out in midfield and reduced the arrears via another Mullane point (free) before Lancashire made a hash of clearing their lines to gift Longford their opening goal.

With Mullane striking sweetly off the set piece and Buckley backing him up with an excellent score from open play, Longford were gradually bringing themselves into contention. Yet Lancashire’s ability to snuff out danger proved the difference maker, scores coming from Eoghan Kelly and Cormac Kenny amongst a number that kept a useful lead intact. With time beginning to run down Lancashire struck the clincher, full-forward Carroll making no mistake to lash a close-range shot beyond Burke and establish a nine-point gap as the visitors got caught under the high ball once more.

Longford rallied late on, a leaping Dan Crossan latched onto a high ball to sweep to the back of the Lancashire net only to be ruled out for a square ball before Reuben Murray eventually forced the ball over Coates’ goal line for his side’s second major of the half. Yet Lancashire remained comfortable, Eamonn Kearns and finally Carroll rubberstamping an opening round victory ahead of road trips to both Leitrim and Cavan – if Knocker’s charges can take something from those two games, those bright lights of the Jones’ Road may just flicker on their horizon.

Over at Markievicz Park, London’s hurlers were undone late on by Sligo in their Christy Ring Cup opener. Joe McHugh’s goal in the closing minutes proving decisive as London were defeated by 2-20 to 1-20, Kevin McMullan’s side hosting Meath this Sunday at McGovern Park in their next game (throw-in set for 1pm).



Lancashire: P Coates; A Morgan, C McCormick, P Shine; F Henry (0-2), S Nugent (0-1), C Kenny (0-1); E Clifford (0-4), S Madden (0-3); R McCormack (1-0), C Madden (0-1), E Kelly (0-1); R Spencer (0-4, 4f), D Carroll (2-3), D Burke. Subs: C O’Shea (for Burke 44); L Burns (for Morgan 49); E Kearns (0-1, for Kelly 56); R Walsh (for Kenny 63); B Slattery (for Shine 66).

Longford: P. Burke; J Casey, K Murray, I Dolan; A Quinn, E Allen, E Tully; C Flynn, P Lynam (0-3, 1f); R Sheahan, C Mullane (0-9, 3f), R Maher; L Browne (0-3), M Savage, M Hawes. Subs: R Murray (1-0, for Maher 22); D Crossan (for Hawes 28); D Buckley (0-2, for Sheahan 31); P McNally (for Savage 46); D Regan (for Dolan 60).

Referee: K. Brady (Louth)