Cadbury’s Leinster U-21 Football Championship Semi-Final
Longford . . . . . 2-11 Wexford . . . . . 1-13
Padraic O’Brien reporting from O’Moore Park, Portlaoise
Longford just about managed to withstand a terrific Wexford comeback with just a single point separating the sides at the final whistle as Eugene McCormack’s charges advanced to meet the title favourites Kildare in the Leinster U-21 Championship decider on Wednesday April 3rd.
After playing some wonderful football to establish a very commanding 2-5 to 0-0 lead with just 16 minutes played in the semi-final clash at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Wednesday evening, Longford were cruising and it looked all over as a contest with full-forward Mark Hughes scoring both goals in the 9th and 11th minutes.
But Wexford were given a glimmer of hope when Robert Dempsey shot to the back of the net in the 22nd minute and his side ended up trailing by 2-7 to 1-3 at the break. Two minutes into the second half Robbie Smyth landed a great score from near the sideline to extend the Longford advantage but Wexford then found a new lease of life to register seven points in a row in a glorious spell between the 35th and 42nd minutes.
A cracking point from James McGivney in the 44th minute eased the pressure on Longford, only for Wexford to draw level through a brace of frees converted by Ciaran Butler and Alan Tobin, but the midlanders showed a lot of character in battling back to regain the upper hand.
When all around him were in a state of panic, Robbie Smyth kept his composure to kick two vital points (free and play) in the space of a minute but Longford had a lucky escape in the 55th minute when Wexford midfielder Colm Kehoe blasted the ball over the bar when a goal was there for the taking.
That proved to be the last score of this tense and exciting encounter and while Longford missed some chances in the lengthy stoppage time after keeper Paddy Collum was stretchered off injured, Wexford had a wonderful opportunity to snatch a draw when they were awarded what appeared to be a handy free but Ciaran Butler drove the kick wide in the fourth minute of additional time.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels); Ronan Keogh (Killoe Young Emmets), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond), Darragh Bennett (Killoe Young Emmets); Darren Farrelly (Fr. Manning Gaels), Padraig McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets), Diarmuid Cooney (Fr. Manning Gaels); Paddy Thompson (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-1), Darren Gallagher (Granard St. Mary’s); Rory Connor (Kenagh), Barry McKeon (Colmcille), Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Young Emmets); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-6, three frees), Mark Hughes (Killoe Young Emmets, 2-2, one point from free), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 0-2).
Subs:- Cillian Lynn (Mostrim) for D Mimnagh (44 mins); Cian Farrelly (Killoe Young Emmets) for D Farrelly (56 mins); Gareth Higgins (Carrickedmond) for P Collum (injured, 59 mins); Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers) for R Connor (61 mins).
Read the full report in the next edition of the Longford Leader, on sale on Wednesday March 27th