Cadbury’s Leinster U-21 Football Championship Final
Kildare . . . . . . . . . 1-12 Longford . . . . . . . . 0-12
While Longford failed in their quest to achieve that elusive first Leinster U-21 Football Championship title triumph and have now lost all seven finals they have contested in this so competitive grade, the current squad certainly gave it their best shot in a very determined bid to spring a shock against the hot favourites Kildare at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Wednesday evening.
Mainly due to their supremacy in the midfield battle with powerful No. 9 Sean Hurley producing a classy man-of-the-match performance, Kildare were unquestionably the stronger side and held a commanding eight points lead at one stage of the second half with a goal from a penalty converted by corner-forward Paddy Brophy eventually proving to be the decisive matchwinning score in this entertaining provincial decider watched by the official attendance of 5,759.
Trailing by 0-9 to 0-5 at the break, Longford suffered a serious setback with less than a minute gone on the changeover when the towering figure of Hurley was impeded as he burst his way through the opposing defence and referee Brian O’Shea awarded a penalty that was duly dispatched to the back of the net by Brophy.
Moments later the other Kildare corner-forward Padraig Fogarty shot over the bar to leave Longford facing a real uphill task but the underdogs went down fighting in a brave battle and there was a lot to admire about the usual never-say-die spirit they displayed in gradually closing the gap with just the crucial goal separating the sides at the final whistle.
In the 52nd minute, Longford had a glorious opportunity of getting the goal they so badly needed. Full-forward Mark Hughes looked destined to hit the back of the net from point-blank range after rounding the opposing keeper Mark Donnellan but the Killoe man was denied by a last ditch deflection by Kildare defender Paul Cribben who blocked the ball wide.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels); Ronan Keogh (Killoe Young Emmets), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond), Darragh Bennett (Killoe Young Emmets); Darren Farrelly (Fr. Manning Gaels), Padraig McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets), Diarmuid Cooney (Fr. Manning Gaels); Paddy Thompson (Killoe Young Emmets), Darren Gallagher (Granard St. Mary’s, 0-2); Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-1), Barry McKeon (Colmcille, 0-1, free), Rory Connor (Kenagh); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-2, one free), Mark Hughes (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-5, three frees), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 0-1).
Subs:- Cian Farrelly (Killoe Young Emmets) for P Thompson (40 mins); Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers) for R Connor (40 mins); Cillian Lynn (Mostrim) for R Smyth (injured, 59 mins); Shane Clarke (Killoe Young Emmets) for D Gallagher (59 mins).
Read Padraic O’Brien’s full report in the next edition of the Longford Leader, on sale on Wednesday