Longford suffer the disappointment of defeat in the hurling league final

Johnny Casey pictured in action for Longford against Warwickshire in the National Hurling League Division 3B Final on Saturday last.  Photo: Declan Gilmore
Despite being the only side to win all their league games, Longford failed to gain promotion to Division 3A after losing out to Warwickshire in the National League Division 3B Final at the Ratoath grounds, Co Meath on Saturday last with the absence of the injured Joe O’Brien proving to be a big blow.

Despite being the only side to win all their league games, Longford failed to gain promotion to Division 3A after losing out to Warwickshire in the National League Division 3B Final at the Ratoath grounds, Co Meath on Saturday last with the absence of the injured Joe O’Brien proving to be a big blow.

Coming into this game Longford were favourites to win and they showed just why for most of the first half but disaster struck in the 28th minute when Cathal Mullane was controversially sent-off; for the first time in his career. Video evidence proved that he did nothing to warrant the red card he received.

Longford were reduced to 13 men in the 46th minute when Paddy Corcoran was sent-off; more out of frustration rather than malice. Kilkenny referee Gavin Quilty certainly didn’t endear himself to Longford with a number of questionable decisions.

Longford had made a bright start to the game and hit over the opening three points through Cian Kavanagh, Eoin Donnellan (free) and Cathal Mullane but Warwickshire scores from Colin Moran and so influential substitute Sean Hennessy (free) closed the gap by the 18th minute. Martin Coyle then hit over two points for Longford, between a fine Hennessy score, before two more Warwickshire points in a row levelled the game by the 25th minute.

One minute later and Moran put the Exiles ahead. Then Longford were awarded a penalty after John Mulhern was fouled and no booking for the offence. Before Eoin Donnellan stepped up to take it Cathal Mullane was shown a straight red card after the linesman alerted the referee.

Donnellan dispatched the penalty to the net to put Longford back in front before Moran replied for Warwickshire. Just before the break Coyle and Donnellan (free) hit over points to leave Longford leading by 1-7 to 0-7 at the break.

But the Birmingham based side made a great start to the second half and hit 1-3 without reply to storm ahead by three points by the 40th minute, subsitute Colm McBride getting the goal.

While Eoin Donnellan then converted a ’65 along with an excellent long range free to cut the gap to one by the 42nd minute, Longford suffered another setback soon after when they were reduced to 13 after Paddy Corcoran was sent-off.

Sean Hennessy hit over three frees for Warwickshire while all Longford could manage was another Donnellan free in the 55th minute.

As the game entered the final few minutes a lot of decisions seem to go Warwickshire’s way and two more frees from Hennessy extended their lead to five points by the 69th minute.

In stoppage time Longford piled on the pressure as they tried to get back into the game with Bart Hanley getting a goal but they couldn’t get another one to snatch a dramatic winner as Warwickshire held on for a two point win in gaining promotion to Division 3A next season.

WARWICKSHIRE: Michael Cremin; Tom Kelly, Donnacha Kennedy, Chris Bough; Dwane Sweedy, Kieran Courtney, Shane Conlon; Liam Reale (0-1), Pádraig McCloskey (0-1); Emmet McCabe, John Reddan (0-1), Conor Robbins; David Millea, John Bergin, Colin Moran (0-3).

Subs:- Sean Hennessy (0-9, 7 frees) for E McCabe (12 mins); Colm McBride (1-0) for T Kelly (half-time); Jack Quinn for S Conlon (69 mins); Kieran Phelan for J Bergin (69 mins); Tom Brien for C Moran (69 mins).

LONGFORD: Dara Duggan (Wolfe Tones); Gerard Moore (Clonguish), Brendan Stakem (Wolfe Tones), Paddy Corcoran (Clonguish); Conáire Flanagan (Oliver Plunketts, Westmeath), Bart Hanley (Granagh/Ballingarry, Tipperary, 1-0), Karl Murray (Longford Slashers); Johnny Casey (Longford Slashers), Paul Barden jnr (Clonguish); Cathal Mullane (Killeedy, Limerick 0-1), Martin Coyle (Wolfe Tones, 0-3), Luke Kelly (Wolfe Tones); Cian Kavanagh (Longford Slashers, 0-1), John Mulhern (Wolfe Tones), Eoin Donnellan (Longford Slashers, 1-5, 1 ’65, 3 frees).

Subs:- Kealan Cox (Wolfe Tones) for L Kelly (56 mins); Paddy Cullen (Wolfe Tones) for P Barden jnr (69 mins).

Referee: Gavin Quilty (Kilkenny).