Longford hurlers got their year off to a flying start as they had seven points to spare over Louth in the first round of the Kehoe Cup on Sunday afternoon.
It was a fine display from Longford who hurled very well throughout this entertaining encounter and there were plenty of positives for new manager Ray Gavin to take out of the game. With a number of regular players unavailable, those that came in gleefully availed of the opportunity and they provided Gavin with plenty of food for thought.
One player who really impressed was centre-half back Bart Hanley. The Granagh-Ballingarry clubman was a real tower of strength in the Longford defence and his addition to the panel is a major plus.
Huge strides are being made to improve and promote hurling in the county and one pleasing thing about Sunday was all but two players on the team-sheet play their club hurling in Longford; that augurs well for the future of the game in the county.
Longford controlled proceedings from the start and although Louth did draw level during the second half they didn’t panic and showed real character to pull away near the end.
Sharp-shooter Eoin Donnellan opened the scoring in the third minute with a good point. He followed that up with a ’65 and then a fantastic long-range score to put Longford 0-3 to nil ahead by the sixth minute. Louth got off the mark with a pointed Paddy Lynch free in the eighth minute.
Kealan Cox restored Longford’s three point advantage in the 11th minute before two Donnellan points; one fantastic point from play and another free stretched the lead further, 0-6 to 0-1.
Lynch hit over another free in the 18th minute before Longford replied with a ’65 from Donnellan and a nice point from Cathal Mullane, making it 0-8 to 0-2 with 28 minutes elapsed.
Louth got back into the game one minute later with a goal from Óisín Drumm and another Lynch free left just two in it at the break; 0-8 to 1-3.
Donnellan was on target again with another free three minutes after the interval and Luke Kelly had a goal ruled out a minute later. Three points in a row helped the ‘Wee County’ gain parity in the 49th minute, 0-9 to 1-6. Longford’s response was excellent and a good point from Joe O’Brien saw them regain the initiative.
O’Brien was on the mark again with a neat point before Donnellan hit over his 8th point (another free), 0-12 to 1-6. A free from David Mahony put just two between them in the 63rd minute.
Longford extended their lead to five in the 66th minute when John Mulhern found the back of the net after Mullane’s shot came off the crossbar, 1-12 to 1-7. But it was back to a two point game again within two minutes when Drumm rattled home his second goal, 1-12 to 2-7.
Louth though were unable to get any closer to Longford as Ray Gavin’s side finished the game strongly. Another free from Donnellan put a goal between the sides in the 68th minute.
The game was put beyond Louth when Mulhern slammed home his second goal in stoppage time and the Wolfe Tones clubman followed that up with a point; leaving Longford as emphatic 2-14 to 2-7 winners.
Longford host St Pat’s/Mater Dei (who lost 0-12 to 1-16 v Meath last Sunday) in the second round of the competition next Sunday at 2pm in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, while their third round assignment is on Sunday, February 1 against Meath in Trim. The winners of this group will advance to the final where the winners of Group 2 (Wicklow, Fingal, Kildare or Maynooth University) will provide the opposition.
LONGFORD: Dara Duggan; Karl Murray, Brendan Stakem, Eoghan Kavanagh; Gerard Moore, Bart Hanley, Paddy Corcoran; Paul Barden Jnr, Cian Kavanagh; Kealan Cox (0-1), Eoin Donnellan (0-9, 0-5 frees, 0-2 ’65s), Luke Kelly; John Mulhern (2-1), Jamie Rosney, Cathal Mullane (0-1).
Subs: Joe O’Brien (0-2) for Rosney (34 mins), Ciaran Corcoran for Cox (70 mins).
LOUTH: Aiden Carter; Conor Kerrigan, John Clarke, Eoin McHugh; Cathal Ryan, Shane Callan, Andrew McCrave; Jason Condon, Darren O’Hanrahan; Óisín Drumm (2-0), Andrew McKeown, Gerard Smyth (0-1); Paddy Lynch (0-4, 0-3 frees), Sean Conneely, Gavin Kane.
Subs: David Mahony (0-2, 0-1 free) for Kane (half-time), Gary O’Brien for Lynch (inj, 53 mins), Ricky McKeown for Kerrigan (70+1 mins).
Referee: Alfie Devine (Westmeath).