Sensational fightback helps gutsy Longford secure against the odds victory

Alan Walsh

Reporter:

Alan Walsh

Longford's Brian Kavanagh holds onto possession ahead of Offaly's Paul McConway.
Leinster Senior Football Championship 1st Rd: Offaly 0-13 Longford 0-16 Longford staged a sensational second half fightback to come from behind and defeat Offaly by 0-16 to 0-13 in this evening’s Leinster Senior Football Championship 1st Round clash watched by 4,959 spectators in O’Connor Park, Tullamore.

Leinster Senior Football Championship 1st Rd: Offaly 0-13 Longford 0-16

Longford staged a sensational second half fightback to come from behind and defeat Offaly by 0-16 to 0-13 in this evening’s Leinster Senior Football Championship 1st Round clash watched by 4,959 spectators in O’Connor Park, Tullamore.

After 45 minutes Longford trailed by 0-5 to 0-12, however, inspired by some brilliant score taking by Brian Kavanagh, Dessie Reynolds, Ross McNerney and Diarmuid Masterson they went on to outscore shell shocked Offaly by 0-11 to 0-1 and deservedly seal their place in the quarter-final on Sunday, May 31 against Dublin at 4pm in Croke Park.

After losing the Div 4 NFL Final to Offaly by 1-12 to 4-16, this was a remarkable turnaround by Longford and their victory was based on guts, work ethic and the energy of the young players they blooded this evening.

Longford manager Jack Sheedy and his selectors made three changes to side announced and released to the media on Thursday night. Peter Foy, Enda Williams and Ross McNerney were left out of the side, with Cian Farrelly, Barry McKeon and Rory Connor being introduced.

For the aforementioned trio, the game marked their full Leinster Championship debut, joining two other debutants Paddy Collum and Ronan McEntire. For three more players - Dessie Reynolds, Ross McNerney and Liam Connerton - sprung from the bench, it also marked their first taste of Leinster senior football action.

Last year, Longford’s 0-19 to 0-15 victory in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park was their first championship win over Offaly since 1965. Six of the team that started that game - Sean McCormack, Mark Hughes, Paul Barden, Shane Mulligan, Damien Sheridan and John Keegan didn’t feature this evening and this makes this second successive championship win over Offaly all that bit sweeter.

Despite facing the strong wind, Longford got off to a lightning start and they led 0-5 to 0-2 after 23 minutes. Brian Kavanagh converted two frees, with Ronan McEntire, Barry McKeon and Colm P Smyth also getting on the scoresheet.

Offaly, who haven’t won a Leinster Championship game since 2007, got their opening points through Niall McNamee and Nigel Dunne. They lost midfielder Niall Smith due to a 19th minute black card and within six minutes the entire Longford half forward line of Michael Quinn, McEntire and Shane Doyle all picked up yellow cards as there was plenty of hard hits going in.

Between the 24th and 32nd minutes Offaly took complete control and registered seven points in succession through Graham Guilfoyle (free), Joseph O’Connor, William Mulhall (3 frees), Dunne and McNamee, making it 0-9 to 0-5 in favour of Pat Flanagan’s men.

In the first minute of injury-time at the end of the half Longford looked to have earned a life-line as Shane Doyle was dragged down by Daithi Brady at the expense of a penalty. Michael Quinn stepped up to take it and his strike was brilliantly stopped by vigilant Alan Mulhall. Half-time: Offaly 0-9 Longford 0-5.

On the resumption, Offaly maintained their assault and points by Bernard Allen (2) and Nigel Dunne saw them surge seven points ahead, 0-12 to 0-5, with 45 minutes elapsed.

Buoyed by wind advantage and the enthusiasm of young subs Dessie Reynolds, Ross McNerney and Liam Connerton, Longford staged a dramatic transformation as they outscored hapless Offaly by 0-11 to 0-1 over the closing 24 minutes to claim an incredible against the odds victory.

Six unanswered points from Barry McKeon (free), Brian Kavanagh (2), sub Dessie Reynolds, Diarmuid Masterson and sub Peter Foy helped Longford reduce the gap to the minimum, 0-11 to 0-12 after 59 minutes.

William Mulhall (free) landed Offaly’s 13th point in the 60th minute and Longford again dug deep and they found rich reserves with Ross McNerney and Colm P Smyth finding the target to level it at 0-13 all (63 minutes gone). Nigel Dunne was wide with an Offaly free and Longford pushed on for victory with fantastic points dispatched by Dessie Reynolds, Brian Kavanagh and McNerney (free).

As if we hadn’t enough twists in this battle, Longford ‘keeper Paddy Collum had to produce a stunning last-gasp save to keep out a fisted goalward bound effort by Offaly sub Conor McNamee.

SCORERS

Offaly: William Muhall 0-4 (frees), Nigel Dunne 0-3, Niall McNamee 0-2, Bernard Allen 0-2 (0-1 free), Graham Guilfoyle 0-1 (free), Joseph O’Connor 0-1.

Longford: Brian Kavanagh 0-5 (0-3 frees), Barry McKeon 0-2 (0-1 free), Dessie Reynolds 0-2, Ross McNerney 0-2 (0-1 free),Colm P Smyth 0-2, Ronan McEntire 0-1, Peter Foy 0-1, Diarmuid Masterson 0-1

TEAMS

Offaly: Alan Mulhall (Walsh Island); Brian Darby (Rhode), Paul McConway (Tullamore, capt.), Daithi Brady (Ballyfore); Niall Darby (Rhode), Johnny Moloney (Tullamore), Joseph O’Connor (St Rynagh’s); Graham Guilfoyle (Clara), Niall Smith (Gracefield); Eoin Carroll (Cappincur), Niall McNamee (Rhode), Anton Sullivan (Rhode); Bernard Allen (Tubber), Nigel Dunne (Shamrocks), William Mulhall (Walsh Island).

Subs: Conor McNamee (Rhode) for N Smith (black card) (19 mins), John Ledwith (Clara) for P McConway inj (54 mins), Peter Cunningham (Bracknagh) for B Allen (58 mins), Cian Donohue (St Brigid’s) for E Carroll (68 mins), Nigel Bracken (Tullamore) for N Dunne (68 mins).

Longford: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers, capt.), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond), Cian Farrelly (Killoe Emmet Og); Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard); Michael Quinn (Killoe Emmet Og), Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon); Ronan McEntire (Dromard), Francis McGee (Dromard), Shane Doyle (Kenagh); Barry McKeon (Colmcille), Brian Kavanagh (Kilmacud Crokes), Rory Connor (Kenagh).

Subs.: Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connollys) for F McGee (33 mins), Ross McNerney (Dromard) for S Doyle (half time), Peter Foy (Longford Slashers) for R Connor (54 mins), Liam Connerton (Rathcline) for B McKeon (59 mins).

Referee: Padraig O’Sullivan, Kerry.