A free from Joe O’Brien two minutes from time earned Longford a dramatic draw against Fermanagh in a dress rehearsal for next month’s Lory Meagher Cup Final.
O’Brien had a very good game throughout; he scored 10 points and more or less orchestrated the show.
With nothing at stake for both sides there were several changes to the starting line-ups. Longford gave a number of players their opportunity to stake their claim for a starting position for the June 7 Croker showdown with just a handful of regulars starting this final group game.
Fermanagh bossed the opening exchanges and led by 0-5 to 0-2 with 14 minutes elapsed. Two O’Brien converted frees cut the gap to just one in the 19th minute but the Ernesiders hit over three points in a row to give them a four point lead, 0-8 to 0-4.
O’Brien’s neat point put a goal in it before Fermanagh stretched their lead to six points, 0-11 to 0-5, by the 30th minute. Longford replied with three points but a Paul McGoldrick free and a Rory Porteous goal put Fermanagh up by seven, 1-12 to 0-8, and crucially just before the half-time whistle Longford pulled a goal back; Luke Kelly’s effort was kicked to the net by Cian Kavanagh in a goalmouth scramble.
Within 23 seconds of the resumption Porteous scored Fermanagh’s second goal, 2-12 to 1-8. Two O’Brien frees and a point from Gareth Ghee got Longford to within four points of them but Fermanagh hit back with two McGoldrick points (one free) to put six between them, 2-14 to 1-11.
During the final 20 minutes of the clash Longford’s performance improved and as they began to eat into Fermanagh’s lead they grew in confidence.
Two points from Ghee and one apiece from O’Brien (free) and Luke Kelly put them within two of Fermanagh in the 60th minute, 1-15 to 2-14.
It was level in the 65th minute when O’Brien fired over two more frees. McGoldrick responded with a free to edge Fermanagh 2-15 to 1-17 ahead in the 66th minute but O’Brien made no mistake from a free in the 68th minute to drew Longford level.
Fermanagh were reduced to 14 men in the 69th minute when Brendan McGarry received a second yellow.
Neither side showed their full hand as they prepare for the final on June 7.And Frank Browne’s Longford charges will feel they have unfinished business to attend to after losing last year’s decider against Warwickshire by 1-10 to 2-16. Prior to Saturday’s ‘shadow boxing’ draw with Fermanagh, the Longford men hammered Warwickshire by 2-17 to 0-4 and in the first round they’d three points to spare over Leitrim 0-12 to 0-9.
LONGFORD: John Mulhern; John Gaffney, Thomas Stakem, Karl Murray; Gerard Moore, Conor Flanagan, Ciaran Corcoran; Paul Barden (0-1), Kealan Cox; Luke Kelly (0-2), Conor Keegan, Cian Kavanagh (1-1); Joe O’Brien (0-10,7f), James Farrell, Gareth Ghee (0-4).
Subs: Martin Coyle for Corcoran (47 mins), Kevin Conneely for Cox (61 mins).
FERMANAGH: Cathal McGarry; Eoin Mahon, Fergus Bannon, David McGorman; Joseph Gavin, Rory Porteous (2-0), Martin Beggan; Ryan Bogue (0-4, 4f), Paul McGoldrick (0-6, 5f, ’65); Shea Curran (0-2), Thomas Cleary, Brendan McGarry (0-1); Barry Duffy (0-1), Ciaran McTeague, John Duffy (0-1).
Subs: John Paul McGarry for Bogue and Declan McGarry for Cleary (42 mins), Ciaran Corrigan for J Duffy (5 7mins), Shane Mullholland for Gavin (61 mins).
Referee: Liam McAuley