A strong side Louth side dismantled an experimental and much understrength Longford outfit in Drogheda on Sunday last to earn a crack at Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup semi-final. Glenn Ryan was minus the bulk of his squad and although they threatened early on, once Shane Lennon scored the only goal in the 12th minute the victory looked assured for the home county.
It was a Francis McGee free for Longford that opened proceedings following too wasteful wides from Aidan Rowan and Mark Duffy. Darren Clarke and David Reid quickly replied for the Reds, before Barry McKeon tied the game just shy of the tenth minute.
Andy McDonnell should have found the back of Paddy Collum’s net for Louth one minute later. The Reds forward found himself one-on-one with Collum’s but his smashed shot was always rising and he had to settle for a point instead.
Lennon’s goal arrived shortly afterwards for Louth and he was unmarked as he supplied a calm finish with the side of his foot. It was Francis McGee again who attempted to kick start Longford’s challenge and he swung over the third point for the visitors in the 15th minute.
It was merely light relief for Longford as Louth roared back with three unanswered points to give them a six point cushion after twenty minutes of play. Donal McElligott and McGee, once again, supplied two back to back scores for Longford, however two quick strikes from Louth’s James Califf redressed the balance once again.
With the first half closing, McElligott and John Keegan stepped up to score and keep Longford clinging on to the home side’s shirt tails with the last points of the opening period.
New Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke (the former Armagh footballer) elected to make three half-time substitutions in order to blood more players with Ruairi Moore, Paddy Keenan and Conor McGuinness entering the fray.
Longford’s honest endeavour was undone by some slack passing. It led to three quick Louth points, including a wonderful long range effort from McDonnell, before another Francis McGee free left the score at 1-11 to 0-8.
As the chill settled around the Gaelic Grounds the bite appeared to fade from the match. Darren Clarke and McDonnell stretched the Reds lead further before O’Rourke completed his allocation of substitutes with the introduction of Eoin O’Connor and the returning John O’Brien.
Glenn Ryan made his own switches with just over ten minutes left. Shane Mulligan replaced Barry McKeon and following a score from McElligott, Paul Kelly also got a run out.
The last three scores of the match all fell to Louth, as David Reid and Andy McDonnell closed out a comprehensive win.
Both teams will clash again in Division 2 of the National League in early April when Glenn Ryan will field a more experienced and stronger side in the battle for victory in the match that really matters.
SCORERS:- Louth: Shane Lennon (1-1), Andy McDonnell (0-5), James Califf (0-4, 2f), David Reid (0-3), Darren Clarke (0-2, 1f), Ronan Carroll (0-1), Conor Rafferty (0-1). Longford: Francis McGee (0-4, 3f), Donal McElligott (0-3, 1f), Barry McKeon (0-1), John Keegan (0-1).
LOUTH: Neil Gallagher; John Bingham, Dessie Finnegan, Gerard Hoey; Cathal Bellew, Liam Shevlin, Declan Byrne; Conor Rafferty, Ronan Carroll; James Califf, Andy McDonnell, JJ Quigley; Darren Clarke, Shane Lennon, David Reid.
Subs:- Ruairi Moore for J Califf (35 mins); Paddy Keenan for C Rafferty (35 mins); Conor McGuinness for D Byrne (35 mins); Eoin O’Connor for JJ Quigley (47 mins); John O’Brien for D Finnegan (51 mins).
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels); Peter Foy (Cashel), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara); Mark Duffy (Fr. Manning Gaels), Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon), Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers); Michael Brady (Longford Slashers), John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s); John Paul Reilly (Colmcille), Barry McKeon (Colmcille), Aidan Rowan (Cashel); Francis McGee (Dromard), Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s), Enda Dalton (St. Judes, Dublin).
Subs:- Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s) for B McKeon (51 mins); Paul Kelly (Longford Slashers) for JP Reilly (57 mins); Conor Quaine (Legan Sarsfields) for M Brady (67 mins).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).