Longford hurlers have it all to do if they are to reach the Lory Meagher Cup Final after a poor display in England saw them lose to a much hungrier Warwickshire side at Pairc na hEireann in Birmingham on Saturday last.
For whatever reason, Longford were extremely sluggish and put in their worst display of the year. It was always going to be a tough game taking on Warwickshire in their own backyard but Longford put in a below par performance; maybe the travelling over on the day of the match had some effect on them.
There were a few changes to the side that went unbeaten in the league and claimed the Division 3B title last month with a number of former players returning to the fold. The old adage ‘you shouldn’t change a winning team’ sprung to mind after this game in the English Midlands.
It was Longford’s Declan Tanner who opened the scoring with a fine point in the 2nd minute but then Warwickshire took control of the game and fired over four unanswered points. Two frees from Conor Robbins edged them in front in the 4th minute and Cormac Behan and the very impressive Sean Hennessy added on points to put them ahead by three points in the 7th minute.
Karl Murray got Longford’s second point in the 8th minute before a free from Hennessy restored his side’s three point advantage. Martin Coyle fired over a point for Longford in the 12th minute but Hennessey responded with another free.
Longford were on level terms in the 17th minute when Joe O’Brien found the back of the net and they went ahead two minutes later with a free from Eoin Donnellan. Then Declan Tanner had a chance to extend that lead but instead of putting the ball over the bar when he was awarded a free he went for goal and Warwickshire cleared off the line.
Points from Joe O’Brien and Eoin Donnellan (free) put Longford ahead by three in the 23rd minute but Warwickshire drew level with points from Paddy Duggan, Alan Morrissey and Hennessy (free). Just before half-time Donnellan edged Longford in front by a point (1-7 to 0-9) but Longford were to relinquish that lead in the early stages of the second half.
Another Hennessy free levelled the game in the 37th minute and one minute later he put Warwickshire ahead when he found the back of the net from a free after a somewhat dubious decision went against Longford.
Minutes later wing-forward Hennessy put four between the sides with another free. Longford had chances but panicked a little and hit a number of wides. Their next point didn’t come until the 48th minute when Eoin Donnellan fired over a free.
Warwickshire defended in numbers as Longford tried to get scores on the board. In the 53rd minute Hennessey pointed again and minutes later the lead was stretched to five points when corner-back Donncha Kennedy got on the scoresheet.
Joe O’Brien responded with a nice point in the 56th minute and tempers flared in the 61st minute when some of the players got involved in a brief fracas. After referee Gearoid McGrath settled things down he sent-off Longford’s Brendan Stakem, who was shown a second yellow card, while Conall Maskey received a straight red card.
When the game resumed the deficit was cut to three points when substitute Michael Farrell found Eoin Donnellan and he pointed but that was to be Longford’s last score of the game.
Warwickshire were resilient as Longford tried to engineer an equalising goal but it failed to materialise. The pressure was lifted on Warwickshire when their chief marksman Sean Hennessey converted a free in the 69th minute and substitute Dwayne Sheedy clinched the win when he shot over the bar one minute later.
The defeat by Warwickshire was a bad blow for Longford who must now win the two home games against Leitrim on Saturday next and Fermanagh (Saturday May 19th) in their quest to qualify for the Lory Meagher Cup Final at Croke Park.
WARWICKSHIRE: Tom Goulding; Brian Bermingham, Liam Knocker, Donncha Kennedy (0-1); Conall Maskey, Eamonn Gleeson, Chris Brough; Conor Robbins (0-2, frees), Mick Bermingham; Sean Hennessey (1-8, six frees), Paddy Duggan (0-1), Cormac Behan (0-1); Enda Lyons, Alan O’Neill, Alan Morrissey (0-1).
Subs:- Des Kelly for P Duggan (63 mins); Dwayne Sheedy (0-1) for A O’Neill (67 mins).
LONGFORD: Eanna Daly; Rory Breslin, Tommy Stakem, Paudie McGarry; Brendan Stakem, Tommy Roche, Conor Egan; Ciaran Finucane, Rory Donnellan; Eoin Donnellan (0-5, three frees), Martin Coyle (0-1), Declan Tanner (0-1); Joe O’Brien (1-2), John Newman, Karl Murray (0-1).
Sub:- Michael Farrell for R Donnellan (51 mins).
Referee: Gearoid McGrath (Dublin).