All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 2A: Clare 1-12 Longford 2-12
Heroic 14-man Longford came away from the intimidating cauldron that is Cusack Park, Ennis with a thoroughly deserved 2-12 to 1-12 victory over Clare in Round 2A of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.
Watched by 14, 268 spectators, it was the first occasion the counties collided in the qualifiers and following back-to-back victories over Carlow and Clare, Jack Sheedyâ€™s courageous men will in the Round 3 draw for the first time since 2006 where on Monday morning their possible opponents could be Roscommon, Kildare or the winner of Fermanagh v Antrim in Brewster Park tomorrow.
Longford started without captain and corner back Dermot Brady who was ruled out due to injury and he was replaced by Cian Farrelly.
Things didnâ€™t look good for Longford when Diarmuid Masterson was dismissed for a second yellow card offence in the 58th minute but they sealed the deal in storming fashion as Brian Kavanagh landed three late points and brought his personal tally up to 1-5.
Aided by the breeze Clare led by 1-7 to 1-6 at the interval.
Longford got the early tonic of a Brian Kavanagh penalty goal and they were 1-4 to 0-5 ahead after 24 minutes before they conceded a goal to Dean Ryan.
Clare enjoyed the better of the closing first half exchanges but Longford kept very much in touch with points from U21s Liam Connerton and Dessie Reynolds who both performed exceptionally well.
Clare ended the opening half with 9 wides (they added three more in the 2nd half) and it was luxury they could ill afford.
Reynolds lobbed Clare â€˜keeper Joe Hayes for a delightful 40th minute goal and this kept Longfordâ€™s noses in front until Tubridy levelled the match for the 4th time in the 55th minute, 2-8 to 1-11.
Diarmuid Masterson joined his half back colleagues Colm P Smyth and Barry Gilleran on yellow cards before he fired Longford ahead. Sixty seconds after doing so he received a second yellow card, followed by red.
Clare restored parity for the 6th and final time at 2-9 to 1-12, but stubborn and gutsy Longford refused to buckle and it was Kavanagh who closed the deal with the three top drawer, two from frees and the other, a beautiful curled effort.
Longford fell behind twice in the opening minutes to points from Gary Brennan and David Tubridy, however, Jack Sheedyâ€™s side were in front by the 7th minute.
The industrious and very lively Liam Connerton was hauled down at the expense of penalty and this was confidently drilled to the net by the experienced Brian Kavanagh. Connerton and Michael Quinn, who was dictating matters at mid-field, added points, so from a position where they trailed by 0-1 to 0-2, Longford had now gone 1-3 to 0-2 ahead with 14 minutes elapsed.
Clare, aided by the breeze, were full of running and Longford were fortunate that Paddy Collum was alert between the posts to keep out a deflected free. Jamie Malone and Brennan pulled back points for Clare before Kavanagh converted a 22nd minute free won by Connerton, 1-4 to 0-4.
Clare then hit a purple patch. Tubridy and Pat Burke grabbed points and sandwiched in between half back Dean Ryan fired home a goal to give the Banner the lead, 1-6 to 0-4 after 32 minutes.
U-21 players Connerton and Dessie Reynolds helped defiant Longford gain parity however it was Clare who retired to their dressing room with a narrow cushion courtesy of an injury time point by Sean Collins. Half-time: Longford 1-6 Clare 1-7.
Longford got the perfect start to the concluding half. Rory Connor punished poor defending and landed the equaliser, before Dessie Reynolds with an exquisite lob, 2-7 to 1-7 after 40 minutes.
Longford corner back Fergal Battrim executed a fine block on Clareâ€™s Pat Burke who was going in search of a goal and another Connor point made it 2-8 to 1-9 with 50 minutes elapsed. Points by Eoin Cleary and Tubridy helped Clare draw level, 2-8 to 1-11 before Diarmuid Masterson edged Longford ahead with a magnificent long range point.
Just seconds later Masterson was shown a second yellow card followed by red and Longford were down to 14 men.
Clare tied matters for the fifth time in the game courtesy of a 59th minute Dean Ryan, 2-9 to 1-12.
The momentum looked as though it was with the Banner however Longford dug deep and showing great courage they wrapped up a memorable win with three late points executed by Kavanagh, two from frees, and a stunning strike play.
CLARE: Joe Hayes; CiarÃ¡n Oâ€™ RuisÃ©il, Kevin Hartnett, Martin McMahon; Shane Hickey, Gordon Kelly, Dean Ryan (1-1); Gary Brennan (0-2, 0-1 free; capt.), Cathal Oâ€™Connor; SeÃ¡n Collins (0-1), Jamie Malone (0-1 free), Keelin Sexton; Eoin Cleary (0-1), David Tubridy (0-5, 0-3 frees), Pat Burke (0-1).
Subs.: Shane McGrath for C Oâ€™Connor (18 mins), Enda Coughlan for E Cleary (53 mins), Stephen Collins for G Kelly (60 mins)
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels); Cian Farrelly (Killoe Emmet Og), Barry Oâ€™Farrell (Carrickedmond), Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara); Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Diarmuid Masterson (0-1, Dromard); Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon), Michael Quinn (0-1, Killoe Emmet Og); Padraig Gill (Fr Manning Gaels), Ronan McEntire (Dromard), Rory Connor (0-2, Kenagh); Liam Connerton (0-2, Rathcline), Brian Kavanagh (1-5, 0-4f, 1-0 penalty; Kilmacud Crokes), Dessie Reynolds (1-1, Sean Connollyâ€™s).
Subs.: Shane Doyle (Kenagh) for P Gill (48 mins), Ross McNerney (Dromard) for R McEntire (60 mins), Peter Foy (Longford Slashers) for R Connor (66 mins).
Referee: Anthony Nolan, Wicklow.