Cadbury’s Leinster Under 21 Football Championship Quarter-Final
Longford . . . . . 1-13 Laois . . . . . . 1-12
Longford’s winning streak continued at wet and windy O’Moore Park on Wednesday night when the county U-21 footballers eventually got the better of Laois after extra-time to reach the Leinster Championship semi-final and a date with the red-hot title favourites Dublin on March 19th at a neutral venue to be confirmed.
Depending on the result of the quarter-final replay between Meath and Louth, Jack Sheedy’s side will be heading to Navan or Portlaoise for the eagerly awaited last four clash against Dessie Farrell’s charges and there was a lot to admire about the determined manner in which they came from five points down in the second half to rescue the situation.
Just two points separated the sides at the break in normal time, 1-5 to 1-3, with a Liam Connerton goal in the 28th minute bringing Longford right back into contention after the opposing keeper Graham Brody had done well to save a close range shot from Paddy Kiernan.
Laois looked in trouble after playing with the advantage of the strong wind in the first half but they hit back strongly on the changeover with three points in a row through Evan Costello (2) and Evan O’Carroll giving them a comfortable lead, 1-8 to 1-3.
But this Longford team are made of stern stuff and strengthened by the return of the fit again Barry O’Farrell, who was brought on in the fith minute of the second half, they staged a terrific comeback which yielded seven points without reply between the 38th and 54th minutes - five from the excellent Robbie Smyth (one free) with James McGivney (free) and Paddy Kiernan (a cracking strike) also on target.
That glorious spell appeared to have settled the issue but Laois were not done for yet and late points from substitute Nigel Murphy (58th minute) and a close range free converted by Evan Costello in stoppage time forced this tense and exciting encounter into extra-time with the sides deadlocked at 1-10 apiece.
Points from Liam Connerton and Barry McKeon then gave Longford the edge in this thrilling game, although they had a very lucky escape when a shot from Evan O’Carroll hit the crossbar and another goal for Laois at that stage would probably have swung the match in favour of the home county.
Having said that, Ross McNerney had a goal attempt blocked down with Robbie Smyth hitting the upright in the same attack and the gap was reduced to the minimum of margins when Alan Farrell kicked a point for Laois.
Another Barry McKeon score in the second half of extra-time gave Longford a bit of breathing space but a Jason Campion point for Laois meant that this dramatic quarter-final clash went right down to the wire and that was the way it remained as last year’s beaten finalists held out for a great win.
LONGFORD: Gareth Higgins (Carrickedmond); Cian Farrelly (Killoe Emmet Og), Andrew Farrell (Cashel), Anthony McBrien (Abbeylara); Shane Clarke (Killoe Emmet Og), Stephen McLoughlin (Clonguish), Conor Shields (Clonguish); Barry McKeon (Colmcille, captain, 0-3), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 0-1, free); Emmet Noonan (Fr. Manning Gaels), Rory Connor (Kenagh, 0-1), Paddy Kiernan (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1); Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers, 0-1), Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-5, one free), Liam Connerton (Rathcline, 1-1).
Subs:- Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond) for A McBrien (35 mins); Ross McNerney (Dromard) for E Noonan (55 mins); Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Emmet Og) for R Connor (57 mins).
Subs in extra-time:- Mattie Gorman (Ballymore) for S Clarke; Podge Gill (Fr. Manning Gaels) for S McLoughlin.
LAOIS: Graham Brody; Eoin Feane, Ciaran Lennon, Dan Dunne; Donal Ramsbottom, Mark O’Halloran, Darren Fitzpatrick; Jason Campion (0-1), Padraig McEvoy; Eoin George, Evan Costello (0-7, five frees), Martin Scully (1-0); Paul Kingston (0-1), Michael Keogh, Evan O’Carroll (0-1).
Subs:- Adam Campion for D Dunne (black card, half-time); Willie Young for J Campion (half-time); Nigel Murphy (0-1) for M Scully (42 mins); Alan Farrell (0-1) for E George (49 mins); Robbie Dowling for D Ramsbottom (55 mins).
Subs in extra-time:- J Campion for W Young; Dean Cullen for N Murphy.
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).