The Longford hurlers suffered a third defeat on the trot in the National League when they went down to Louth at the Darver grounds on Sunday last and are now facing relegation from Division 3A.
The counties are currently on two points apiece in the league table but the head-to-head result will keep Louth up if Longford lose their remaining fixture against strongly fancied Roscommon in Athleague on Sunday next.
Having suffered a disappointing loss to Roscommon, Fermanagh and an undeserved defeat to Monaghan, a victory in this match for Louth was a must and they achieved that objective with seven points to spare at the final whistle.
Louth needed a win and it showed in the urgency and intensity the players demonstrated in the opening minutes. With the big hits flying in, Longford quickly realised it was going to be a tough task, and indeed they got off to the worst possible start, conceding a goal in the opening minutes with Gary Rellis on target for Louth.
Louth midfielder Jason Condon added a point before the second goal of the goal materialised after five minutes through Gerard Smyth. Louth were rampant at this stage and they looked like they could carve Longford open at will, particularly with the two corner forwards Davy Mahoney and Diarmuid Murphy winning a lot of ball and linking up well.
Louth then scored another goal through Mahoney to hold a commanding 3-2 to 0-1 lead after just 13 minutes before Longford finally managed to get a foothold in the game, hitting 3 points in a row, all frees from wing forward Eoin Donnellan.
However, Louth responded with 3 points of their own to consolidate their firm grip on the game. Longford added two further points, again from frees converted by Eoin Donnellan.
The final score of the first half came from Louth’s Jason Condon and the home county led by 3-6 to 0-6 at the break. In the second half Louth had the advantage of a very strong breeze but it was Longford who made a great start on the changeover to score 1-2.
Longford had the ball in the net in the 40th minute when a high ball down the middle deceived Louth full-back Brian Carter and Longford forward Thomas Stakem reacted quickest, gaining possession and slotting the ball past the advancing keeper James Connolly.
Those scores reduced the deficit to just four points and Longford should have closed the gap further but for hitting 3 bad wides in succession.
Louth finally opened their second half account in the 50th minute, with Diarmuid Murphy sending the ball over the bar and Murphy then added a further point to his tally from a ‘65.
Eoin Donnellan responded with a free for Longford before Shane Callan struck a massive point for Louth from inside his own half to leave 6 points between the teams with 10 minutes remaining.
The impressive Eoin Donnellan reduced the deficit to 5 but the Longford challenge was extinguished with 8 minutes remaining when Diarmuid Murphy pointed a free, awarded for a cynical foul committed by Declan Tanner and who was subsequently sent-off for a second yellow card offence.
Both Longford and Louth were guilty of some poor shooting in the closing stages of the match and Louth substitute Shane Maguire added a nice score in injury-time.
SCORERS – Louth: D Murphy 0-6, G Smyth, G Rellis, D Mahoney 1-0 each, J Condon 0-2, D O’Hanrahan, S Callan, S Maguire 0-1 each. Longford: E Donnellan 0-7, T Stakem 1-1, K Conneely, C Flanagan 0-1 each.
LOUTH: J Connolly; C Kerrigan, B Carter, A McCrave; C Ryan, C Hayes, R Byrne; S Callan, J Condon; G Smith, G Rellis, A Mackin; D O’Hanrahan, D Murphy, D Mahony.
Subs:- S Maguire for A Mackin, O Drumm for G Rellis.
LONGFORD: P Cullen; G Moore, B Stakem, K Murray; C Egan, D Tanner, R Donnellan; C Flanagan, P Barden; E Donnellan, K Conneely, K Cox; J Casey, J Newman, P Corcoran.
Subs:- C Kavanagh for J Casey; T Stakem for P Corcoran; R Breslin for G Moore; C Keegan for P Barden.
Referee: F Smith (Meath).