There was no title joy for the Longford juniors as they failed in their bid to win the Leinster Championship Final at St. Conleth’s Park in Newbridge on Wednesday evening of last week with four points separating the sides in the finish.
Eugene McCormack’s squad were quietly confident of emerging victorious but the force was firmly with a physically stronger Kildare team who held a decisive edge at centrefield throughout this entertaining encounter.
Utilising their greater pace to fine effect, the home county overcame the handicap of having to do without the powerful presence of U-21 midfielder Sean Hurley (required for senior duty) and despite losing the services of the impressive Keith Cribben (who had to retired injured in the 18th minute after kicking a couple of fine points) Kildare were not going to be stopped.
Longford also suffered a blow when injury prevented Clonguish player Kevin Burke from taking his place in the attack and the visitors were unable to build on the boost of a well-taken goal from defender Brendan Devine after just six minutes.
Having said that, just a solitary point (1-8 to 2-4) separated the sides at the break with a Paddy Dowd goal from a penalty in the 24th minute keeping Longford very much in contention while Kildare full-forward Cian Bolton flicked the ball to the net midway through the first half.
But the turning point materialised when influential Kildare substitute Cathal McNally fired home the second goal for Kildare with nine minutes gone in the second half and the lily-whites went on to establish a commanding six-point lead.
In the final minute of normal time, Longford were given a glimmer of hope when Darragh Bennett was credited with a goal in a tussle with the opposing keeper William Clynch but Kildare launched an immediate counter-attack that yielded a cracking point from replacement Daniel Grehan to clinch the title.
All four of the Kildare substitutes certainly made a considerable difference when introduced and scored 1-5 between them as Longford suffered the bitter disappointment of losing another Leinster Final this season under the guidance of manager Eugene McCormack who was also in charge of the county U-21 footballers.
Mark Hughes provided the main threat for the extremely tight Kildare defence, who really excelled in the second half in operating with a sweeper, and it was the Killoe man who kicked over Longford’s opening score in the 4th minute. The other seven points for the gallant losers were registered by Paul McKeon (2), Daniel Mimnagh, Shane Doyle, substitute Barry McKeon, Hughes and Paddy Dowd (free).
KILDARE: William Clynch; James O’Connor, William Burke, Peter Warren; Daithi Duke, Darren Barker, Colin O’Shea; Keith Cribbin (0-2), Shane Darcy; Hughie Mahon (0-2), Seamus Hanafin (0-2, frees), Colm Fagan; Paddy Mahon (0-1), Cian Bolton (1-3, two points from frees), Eoin Powderly.
Subs:- Jonathan Byrne (0-2) for K Cribbin (injured, 18 mins); Cathal McNally (1-1) for E Powderly (half-time); Graham Waters (0-1) for D Duke (half-time); Daniel Grehan (0-1) for W Burke (43 mins).
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels); Ronan Keogh (Killoe), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond), Brendan Devine (Clonguish, 1-0); Shane Powell (Ardagh), Darragh Bennett (Killoe, 1-0), Mark Duffy (Fr. Manning Gaels); Johnny Kane (Fr. Manning Gaels), Darren Gallagher (Granard); Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe, 0-1), Paul McKeon (Colmcille, 0-2, one free), Shane Doyle (Kenagh, 0-1); Mark Hughes (Killoe, 0-2), Paddy Dowd (Clonguish, 1-1, goal from penalty, point from free), Marty Mulvey (Carrickedmond).
Subs:- Ger Dennigan (Cashel) for J Kane (24 mins); Barry McKeon (Colmcille, 0-1) for M Mulvey (half-time); John Paul Reilly (Colmcille) for S Powell (39 mins); Jamsie Martin (Dromard) for P McKeon (50 mins); Daniel Keogh (Killoe) for M Hughes (61 mins).
Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly).