Longford minors made the most of their second chance in the Leinster Championship to overcome the challenge of Laois in a high scoring qualifier at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Wednesday evening of last week and showed a lot of character to survive this stiff test after defender Jason Earley was sent-off midway through the first half.
Earley received a straight red card in the 16th minute following a clash with a Laois opponent and that left Longford with 14 players for the remainder of this entertaining encounter, watched by a small attendance in the region of 250. But Martin Mulleady’s spirited side recovered from this significant setback and eventually came out on top thanks to decisive second half goals from Larry Moran (33 mins) and Liam Connerton (50 mins).
It was a fine performance from a very committed Longford outfit with inspirational corner-back John Gill most impressive for the home county who had ran Meath close at the same venue in the opening round of the championship. While the reward for beating Laois is a difficult task against Dublin in the quarter-final at Parnell Park on Saturday May 19th, the minors will be quietly confident of springing a major shock.
Apart from the so gutsy Gill, others to figure prominently for Longford were Aidan McElligott and David McGivney in the general midfield area while lively forwards Larry Moran, Ross McNerney, Rory Connor and influential substitute Liam Connerton certainly made their presence felt up front when it mattered most in the second half.
The fact that Longford scored 2-6 from play, as compared to just four points for Laois, is a clear indication of the overall superiority enjoyed by Longford even with a player less on the pitch and the visitors (beaten by Wicklow in the first round) were extremely fortunate not to concede another goal with just two minutes gone in the game.
Ciaran Mallon fired a cracking shot against the underside of the crossbar and the general opinion was that the ball had actually crossed the line and Longford ended up on level terms at the break, 0-5 to 0-5, despite kicking six wides in the first half.
The scores came from Rory Connor (two frees), Aidan McElligott (long range strike), Larry Moran and David McGivney (an excellent effort) while dangerous Laois full-forward Evan O’Carroll fired over a couple of early points with Eoin Lowry (free) and Paul Kingston (a brace of frees) also on target for the visitors who registered just two wides in the first half.
A brilliant start to the second half put Longford on the road to a well deserved victory with Larry Moran getting a well-taken goal after linking up so effectively with the lively Liam Connerton and this dominant spell also yielded a point apiece from Connor (free) and Moran in the space of five minutes.
Laois now trailed by 1-7 to 0-5 but they came storming back to score four points in a row through Evan O’Carroll, Paul Kingston (two frees) and Dean Cullen – the latter landing a tremendous effort in the 44th minute to leave just the minimum of margins separating the sides.
The Longford defence then blocked down three scoring attempts in the same attack to really frustrate Laois and the pressure was subsequently lifted on Longford with a couple of points in quick succession from Rory Connor (a well struck free) and Ross McNerney, who fired over a glorious kick from near the sideline.
The killer blow was then struck in the 50th minute when David McGivney sent Liam Connerton racing through for a cracking goal and Longford extended their commanding advantage to seven points when the lethal Larry Moran shot over the bar again in the 56th minute in ending up with 1-3 to his credit.
While Laois staged a determined late comeback that yielded a point and a rather soft goal from frees taken by Paul Kingston, Longford had done enough to clinch a quarter-final spot and thus will meet Dublin at the same stage of the Leinster Minor Championship for the second year in succession.
LONGFORD: Colm Farrell (Longford Slashers); Martin Mulligan (Colmcille), Cian Farrelly (Killoe), John Gill (Kenagh); Shane Clarke (Killoe), Jason Earley (Abbeylara), Liam Sullivan (Granard/Ballymore); Aidan McElligott (Mullinalaghta, 0-1), Timmy Jackson (Granard/Ballymore); Ciaran Mallon (Granard/Ballymore), David McGivney (Mullinalaghta, 0-1), Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers); Larry Moran (Killoe, 1-3), Rory Connor (Kenagh, 0-4, all frees), Ross McNerney (Colmcille, 0-1).
Subs:- Liam Connerton (Rathcline, 1-0) for T Jackson (half-time); Killian Farrell (Ardagh) for C Mallon (43 mins); Gary Connell (Drumlish) for L Sullivan (47 mins); Brian Walsh (Longford Slashers) for D McGivney (55 mins).
LAOIS: Adam O’Reilly; Jamie Bartley, Conor Dunne, Rory C Fennell; Martin Scully, Ciaran McEvoy, Rob Dowling; James Nerney, Dean Mahon; Niall Mullins, Paul Kingston (1-5, all from frees), Donnacha O’Reilly; Eoin Lowry (0-1, free), Evan O’Carroll (0-3), Dean Cullen (0-1).
Subs:- Mark Lyons for D O’Reilly (23 mins); Nigel Murphy for R Fennell (35 mins); Conor Hogan for R Dowling (35 mins); James Moore for E Lowry (41 mins); Niall Brennan for N Mullins (54 mins).
Referee: David Fedigan (Louth).