Longford experienced little difficulty in overcoming the challenge of a poor Leitrim outfit in Round 2 of the Lory Meagher Cup at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday last and had the vital victory well wrapped up at half-time, at which stage the far superior home county had built up a very commanding 3-8 to 0-4 lead with the goals coming from Joe O’Brien, John Minnock and Karl Murray in the full-forward-line.
But the county hurlers literally fell asleep in the second half in showing little urgency and will certainly not be able to afford the same lapse of concentration for the remaining group fixture at home to Fermanagh on Saturday next. Longford must win that crunch game to book their place in the Lory Meagher Cup Final at Croke Park on June 8th and that is going to be a difficult task with the Ulster county needing at least a draw to reach the decider.
Fermanagh competed quite well in Division 3A of the National League this season and ended up all square at home to Warwickshire in the Lory Meagher Cup on Saturday last, a result that virtually guarantees the exiles a Croke Park appearance as the Birmingham based team are highly unlikely to slip up at home to Leitrim who are now out of contention for the All-Ireland Senior ‘D’ Hurling Championship.
Thus a fierce battle is in prospect at Pearse Park on Saturday next and Longford will need to be at their best to beat Fermanagh. Manager Frank Browne knows his players must bring a higher level of intensity into that must win match and will be hoping that the attack make the desired impact with plenty of scoring power in the forward division.
Captain Joe O’Brien and the equally prolific Eoin Donnellan will be leading the charge, after scoring 1-9 between them in the easy win over Leitrim, and while Donnellan was sent-off in the closing stages of the local derby on Saturday last he was dismissed for a second yellow card offence and thus will be able to line-out against Fermanagh.
Donnellan fired over a total of seven points against Leitrim, five in the first half with four of those scores coming from frees, and the Rathcline man created the goal for Joe O’Brien who flicked the ball to the net in the 10th minute.
Two minutes earlier Longford got their opening goal when John Newman hit the target and the home side led by 2-4 to 0-0 at the end of the first quarter with O’Brien and Donnellan firing over a brace of points apiece.
Leitrim were in complete disarray with Longford determined to make amends for their disappointing defeat away to Warwickshire in Round 1 the previous week and the visitors had to wait until the 18th minute for their opening score – a free converted by midfielder Clement Cunniffe.
Further Leitrim points followed from Cunniffe (two frees) and Gary McGovern while Longford improved their already strong position in adding another 1-4 to their emphatic first half tally. Karl Murray fired home a well struck goal in the 28th minute while the points came from Kevin Connelly (who missed the Warwickshire game due to suspension) and Eoin Donnellan (three frees).
Leitrim suffered another setback when their centre-half-back David McGovern was sent-off for a second yellow card offence following a clash with Longford opponent Declan Tanner (who was also booked in this brief fracas) and a most uneventful second half developed into a dismal affair.
The best lethargic Longford could do was a couple of Eoin Donnellan points from play along with just two more scores through Connelly and Tanner (free) while substitute Paddy Glancy (free), Cunniffe (free) and Michael Dolan got consolation scores for Leitrim.
LONGFORD: Eanna Daly; Paudie McGarry, Sean Browne, Benny Stakem; Diarmuid Corcoran, Tommy Roche, Conor Egan; Martin Coyle, Ciaran Finucane; Eoin Donnellan (0-7, four frees), Kevin Connelly (0-2), Declan Tanner (0-1, free); Joe O’Brien (1-2), John Newman (1-0), Karl Murray (1-0).
Subs:- Michael Farrell for J Newman (51 mins); Rory Donnellan for M Coyle (52 mins); Gerard Moore for P McGarry (57 mins); Keelan Cox for K Connelly (63 mins); Luke Kelly for K Murray (66 mins).
LEITRIM: Gary Coone; Seamus McTiernan, Vincent McDermott, Stephen Feeney; Alan Duffy, David McGovern, Kevin McGrath; Clement Cunniffe (0-4, all frees), Michael Poinard; Michael Dolan (0-1), Sean Fox, Gary McGovern (0-1); Mark O’Donoghue, James Glancy, Morgan Quinn.
Sub:- Paddy Glancy (0-1, free) for M O’Donoghue (half-time).
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny).