Thanks to a tremendous first quarter which saw them establish a commanding 1-5 to 0-0 advantage, the Longford minors were never in any real danger as they overcame the challenge of Carlow in the Leinster Minor Football Championship quarter-final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Friday evening last.
Carlow, of course, were playing their first game in the championship after receiving a walkover from Kilkenny in the opening round and it proved to be a distinct disadvantage as they initially struggled to compete with a much sharper Longford outfit who had scored a comfortable win over Wicklow in their previous match in the provincial competition.
Team manager Tony Devlin and the other mentors Eugene McCormack, Colin Dalton and Michael Kenny watched their well drilled team race into a five points lead following a flying start with the scores coming from Joe Heaney (2), Darragh Doherty, Jayson Matthews and Conor Berry (free).
Longford went even further in front when Doherty was gifted a goal in the 14th minute and whatever chance Carlow had of getting back into contention suffered a severe setback when a Shane O’Neill penalty was saved by the opposing keeper Michael Hughes in the 16th minute.
Soon after Longford were most unlucky not to score a second goal when a cracking close range shot from Jayson Matthews hit the crossbar, just after Carlow got their opening score from a free converted by O’Neill in the 18th minute.
The home county managed just two more points during the remainder of the first half with Conor Berry and wing back Michael Cahill on target as the visitors ended up trailing by 1-7 to 0-4 at the break - their other three scores coming from Ciaran Larkin, Peter Hennessy (long range free) and substitute Brian Smith (free).
Smith replaced injured midfielder Cathal Bailey in the 27th minute, which was another significant blow for Carlow, and Longford done enough on the changeover to consolidate their firm grip on the game.
Midway through the second half Jayson Matthews fired over a glorious point to leave the midlanders in an emphatic 1-10 to 0-6 lead, the other couple of scores coming from Joe Heaney and Conor Berry (free).
Ciaran Larkin (free) and Darren Lunney replied for Carlow, who were still seven points adrift when Peter Lynn got his name on the scoresheet in the 55th minute and before that Joe Heaney landed his fourth point from play in producing a prominent performance.
Jayson Matthews was also much to the fore up front but it was the powerful Conor Berry who proved to be the real driving force behind this fairly convincing victory and Longford can now look forward to a home semi-final showdown against Meath, probably at Pearse Park, on Saturday June 27th after the exams are over.
Substitute Russell Brady and attacking defender Cillian Lee got the other Longford scores in the closing stages of the game. Carlow, to their credit, managed to add another 1-3 to their tally in the last quarter of the contest with Shane O’Neill getting the final touch for a consolation goal in the 57th minute.
LONGFORD: Michael Hughes (Killoe); Cillian Lee (Killashee, 0-1), Ronan Sheahan (Longford Slashers), Cian Brady (Abbeylara); Kevin Sorohan (Rathcline), Conor Farrell (Cashel), Michael Cahill (Carrickedmond, 0-1); Enda Farrell (Carrickedmond), Peter Hanley (Clonguish); Peter Lynn (Young Grattans, 0-1), Conor Berry (Abbeylara, 0-3, two frees), Darragh Doherty (Mostrim, 1-1); Jayson Matthews (Mullinalaghta, 0-2), Cathal McCabe (Colmcille), Joe Heaney (Sean Connolly’s, 0-4).
Subs:- Ryan Moffatt (Killoe) for C Brady (39 mins); Russell Brady (Abbeylara, 0-1) for P Hanley (46 mins); Rory Hawkins (Colmcille) for J Heaney (56 mins); Cian Finnan (Longford Slashers) for K Sorohan (57 mins); Ruairi Harkin (Colmcille) for C Berry (black card, stoppage time).
CARLOW: Ciaran Byrne; Conor O’Doherty, James Brennan, Colin Byrne; Dylan Slater, Cathal Gaffney, Darren Crooks; Peter Hennessy (0-1, free), Cathal Bailey; Aaron Amond, Sean Bambrick (0-1), Ciaran Larkin (0-2, one free); Jamie Clarke, Shane O’Neill (1-3, points from frees), Darren Lunney (0-1).
Subs:- Brian Smith (0-1, free) for C Bailey (injured, 27 mins); Ross Dunphy for A Amond (37 mins); Conor Crowley for D Lunney (45 mins); Fionn Murphy for D Slater (50 mins).
Referee: David Moore (Laois).