Allianz National Football League Division 4 Final
Offaly . . . . . . . . . . 4-16 Longford . . . . . . . 1-12
Longford crashed to a heavy defeat against Offaly in the National Football League Division 4 title decider at Croke Park on Saturday evening with the wide margin of 13 points separating the sides at the final whistle.
It was a demoralising experience for Jack Sheedyâ€™s side, who must meet the faithful county again in the Leinster Senior Championship Round 1 clash in Tullamore on Saturday May 16th in the battle to earn a crack at Dublin in the quarter-final.
Longford pressed the self destruct button in the first half of the league final, kicking a total of ten wides as compared to just three for Offaly who ended up leading by 1-7 to 0-6 at the break with full-forward Nigel Dunne getting the crucial goal in the 23rd minute.
A brace of points apiece from Dromard duo Diarmuid Masterson and Francis McGee (play and free), with Michael Quinn and Brian Kavanagh (free) also on target, accounted for the Longford scores in the first half while Kavanagh was denied a goal following a terrific save by opposing keeper Alan Mulhall in the 24th minute.
Although the gap was closed after Kavanagh kicked a fine point from play in the early stages of the second half, Offaly went on to enjoy a glorious spell that yielded 1-3 without reply with full-back Paul McConway joining the attack to fire home a cracking goal in the 43rd minute.
Niall McNamee landed a couple of points from play in this decisive period but Longford were thrown a lifeline when Cian Farrelly created the chance for fellow substitute Shane Doyle to find the back of the net in the 46th minute.
Brian Kavanagh then converted a couple of frees to leave just four points between the sides (2-10 to 1-9) but Offaly got back on top to register three points in a row through McNamee and William Mulhall (2) before they struck the killer blow with a third goal in the 56th minute.
Man-of-the-match midfielder Graham Guilfoyle blasted the ball to the back of the net when unleashing a terrific strike and Longfordâ€™s tale of woe was complete when impressive corner-forward William Mulhall pounced to score the fourth Offaly goal in the 63rd minute.
Both sides ended the game with 14 players after Diarmuid Masterson and Anton Sullivan were sent-off for second yellow card offences following a brief fracas in the 60th minute.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Oâ€™Farrell (Carrickedmond), Peter Foy (Longford Slashers); Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara), Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard, 0-2), Enda Williams (Clonguish); Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon); Michael Quinn (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1), Paul McKeon (Colmcille), Ronan McEntire (Dromard); Ross McNerney (Dromard, 0-1, free), Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes, 0-6, five frees), Francis McGee (Dromard, 0-2, one free).
Subs:- Shane Doyle (Kenagh, 1-0) for P McKeon (half-time); Cian Farrelly (Killoe) for E Williams (45 mins); Aidan Rowan (Cashel) for CP Smyth (57 mins); Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connollyâ€™s) for F McGee (57 mins); Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara) for P Foy (67 mins); Padraig Gill (Fr. Manning Gaels) for R McNerney (67 mins).
OFFALY: Alan Mulhall; Brian Darby, Paul McConway (1-0), Daithi Brady; Niall Darby, Johnny Maloney, Joseph Oâ€™Connor; Graham Guilfoyle (1-0), Niall Smith (0-1); Eoin Carroll, Niall McNamee (0-4), Anton Sullivan (0-1); Bernard Allen (0-2, one free), Nigel Dunne (1-3), William Mulhall (1-5, two points from frees).
Subs:- Peter Cunningham for E Carroll (57 mins); Nigel Bracken for B Allen (63 mins); Eoin Rigney for B Darby (65 mins); Cian Donohue for N Darby (66 mins); Keith Mullally for W Mulhall (69 mins); Jamie Evans for N McNamee (70 mins).
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).