Already relegated coming into this meaningless National Football League fixture at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday last, Longford remain pointless at the bottom of the Division 2 table after Laois staged a second half recovery to eventually come out on top in a terrible game with three late scores from influential substitutes Kevin Meaney and Colm Kelly clinching a hard earned win.
While Longford, showing the greater urgency despite having nothing but pride to play for, deserved to be leading by 0-4 to 0-1 at the break they should have been further ahead after kicking seven wides (three frees) in the first half with Sean McCormack suffering the misfortune of hitting the upright no less than three times.
Laois were woeful in the first half, shooting just a solitary wide, and their only score came from the boot of corner-forward MJ Tierney whose dipping shot was parried over the bar by Longford keeper Damien Sheridan in the 13th minute.
Watched by a small attendance in the region of 300 spectators who braved the bitterly cold conditions, the home county opened the scoring in the 9th minute when Sean McCormack converted a free and soon after Francis McGee shot over the bar but it developed into a real dour struggle thereafter with both blanket defences squeezing the life out of the game.
There was no further score until the 30th minute when Laois keeper Eoin Culliton was very slow to react in allowing a speculative shot from Donal McElligott hop over the bar and with time running out in the first half Sean McCormack converted a well struck free following a foul on Francis McGee.
With Donie Kingston already brought on to replace full-forward Padraig Clancy who failed to make any impact in direct opposition to prominent Longford defender Barry Gilleran, Laois manager Justin McNulty made another couple of changes during the break and whatever harsh words he said at half-time also had the desired effect.
Laois, needing a win to guarantee their Division 2 status, gradually awoke from their slumber in getting their act together on the changeover and fired over four points in a row between the 40th and 50th minutes to establish a slender 0-5 to 0-4 advantage.
The scores came from Kingston, Gary Walsh (free), Kevin Meaney (a terrific strike) and Ross Munnelly but Longford quickly regained the lead with excellent points from Sean McCormack and Donal McElligott in the 52nd and 55th minutes.
While Longford failed to register another score during the remainder of this dismal encounter with both sides guilty of missing a number of chances throughout the second half, the game was deadlocked at 0-6 piece with just three minutes of normal time left on the clock and a draw was looking the likely outcome.
Laois had got back on level terms when a long range Ross Munnelly free was parried over the bar by Damien Sheridan in the 59th minute and it remained that way until the 67th minute when substitute Kevin Meaney (brought on at half-time) was on target from a tight angle.
Another Laois replacement Colm Kelly was only on the pitch a short while when he was fouled and kept his composure to land the resulting free in the 70th minute and the same player scored another point in stoppage time to leave Longford reflecting on yet another narrow defeat – their sixth on the trot in the so competitive Division 2.
Their chances of bringing that frustrating losing sequence to a halt in the remaining league fixture against Louth in Drogheda on Sunday April 7th look slim, particularly as the opposition need a win to make sure of their survival, and Longford (currently lacking in confidence) are not in great shape looking ahead to the Leinster Senior Championship first round clash against Wicklow in Aughrim on Sunday May 26th.
LONGFORD: Damien Sheridan (Dromard); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Declan Reilly (Colmcille); Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara), Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara), Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s); John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s), Michael Brady (Longford Slashers); Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore), Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 0-2), Michael Quinn (Killoe Young Emmets); Francis McGee (Dromard, 0-1), David Barden (Clonguish), Sean McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets, 0-3, two frees).
Subs:- JJ Matthews (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s) for F McGee (70 mins); Shane Doyle (Kenagh) for M Brady (70 mins).
LAOIS: Eoin Culliton; Peter O’Leary, Denis Booth, Paul Begley; Darren Strong, John O’Loughlin, Padraig McMahon; Brendan Quigley, Conor Boyle; Ross Munnelly (0-2, one free), Colm Begley, Billy Sheehan; MJ Tierney (0-1), Padraig Clancy, Gary Walsh (0-1, free).
Subs:- Donie Kingston (0-1) for P Clancy (24 mins); Kevin Meaney (0-2) for B Quigley (half-time); Kieran Lillis for P McMahon (half-time); Damien O’Connor for G Walsh (54 mins); Colm Kelly (0-2, one free) for MJ Tierney (65 mins).
Referee: Michael Collins (Cork).