Apart from improving their scores difference, something they achieved quite emphatically with 31 points to spare over rock bottom Kilkenny at Pearse Park on Sunday last, there was little to get excited about in this mis-match and unbeaten Longford will head to London on Saturday next in the knowledge that another win will put them top of the National League Division 4 table in their strong challenge for promotion this season.
The good news for Glenn Ryan is that Brian Kavanagh will be back in action for the county after his club Kilmacud Crokes lost out to Crossmaglen Rangers in the All-Ireland semi-final and while Longford were fairly ruthless in the first half against Kilkenny in establishing a commanding 3-15 to 0-0 lead at the break, there were rather ragged on the changeover in easing up somewhat.
After suffering the embarrassment of failing to register a solitary score in the hammering by Leitrim the previous week, things did improve a bit for dire Kilkenny on this occasion with five second half points to their credit – four from substitute Graham Lawlor – whereas Longford had to be content with another 1-9 and they should have emerge victorious by an even wider margin.
Defender Declan Reilly was denied a goal when hitting the crossbar while the competent Kilkenny keeper JJ O’Sullivan produced three point-blank saves to prevent Paul Barden from adding to his personal tally in the closing stages of the game. The prominent Paul (who ended up with 2-5) found the back of the net for a second time in the 67th minute when flicking home the perfect pass from John Keegan – the last of five substitutes brought on in the second half.
A sparse attendance in the region of 140 gathered at the local GAA headquarters to watch this real farce of a fixture and it is time to stop the slaughter of the poor Kilkenny footballers whose National Football League future is a serious cause for concern.
A Paul Barden goal after only three minutes was the perfect start for Longford who led by 1-10 to 0-0 before Sean McCormack finished the ball to the net in the 28th minute. The accurate McCormack also landed seven points in the first half (three frees) while Barden shot three points as the home side ran riot.
Donal McElligott helped himself to 1-2 with the goal materialising in the the 34th minute as he connected with a pass from fellow Mullinalaghta clubman Shane Mulligan while others to get their names on the scoresheet in the first half were Paddy Dowd, Bernard McElvaney and Martin Brady.
While Longford extended their advantage with further points from McElligott and Paul Barden in the early stages of the second half, Kilkenny then enjoyed a rare dominant spell with the aid of the wind that yielded three points on the trot from Graham Lawlor – the first strike from play with four minutes gone on the changeover.
Longford regained the upper hand to fire over another seven points through Sean McCormack, Donal McElligott (2), Paul Barden, Niall Mulligan (2) and John Keegan before the late goal from Barden while gallant Kilkenny had another couple of consolation scores from Michael Saunders and Lawlor (free).
LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan (Dromard); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Declan Reilly (Colmcille); Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta), Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard), Noel Farrell (Colmcille); Martin Brady (Sean Connolly’s, 0-1), Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore, 0-1); David Barden (Clonguish), Paul Barden (Clonguish, 2-5), Niall Mulligan (Longford Slashers, 0-2); Paddy Dowd (Clonguish, 0-1), Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta, 1-5), Sean McCormack (Killoe, 1-8, three points from frees).
Subs:- James McKenna (Sean Connolly’s) for D Sheridan (half-time); Gerard Farrell (Ardagh) for S Mulligan (half-time), John O’Shea (Carrickedmond) for B McElvaney (half-time); Michael Victory (Mostrim) for B Gilleran (41 mins); John Keegan (Mullinalaghta, 0-1) for D Barden (53 mins).
KILKENNY: JJ O’Sullivan; Declan Grennan, Richard O’Hara, Ciaran Foran; James Mackey, Sean Mahony, Darren Fitzpatrick; Michael Mahony, Paul Donnelly; Thomas Kehoe, Fintan McEnroe, JJ Grace; Paddy Raftice, David Garvey, Michael Saunders (0-1).
Subs:- Graham Lawlor (0-4, three frees) for M Mahony (injured, 19 mins); Sean Mooney for D Garvey (45 mins); John Cullinane for P Donnelly (46 mins); Billy Keogh for M Saunders (58 mins); Tommy Maher for JJ Grace (62 mins).
Referee: Damien Maher (Westmeath).