The Longford minors earned a crack at Kildare in the Leinster Championship quarter-final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday next (4pm) after scoring a comprehensive win over Carlow in the Round 2 Qualifier at Dr. Cullen Park last week.
A glorious spell in the first half, which yielded 2-3 without reply between the 18th and 26th minutes, left Longford in a very commanding position and impressive corner-forward Robbie Clarke put the issue beyond all doubt when he fired home his second goal just before the break.
When prominent midfielder Shane Kenny scored a well-taken goal in the 22nd minute, Longford were well on their way through the ‘back door’ after losing to Dublin in the first round proper and it got even better moments later when Clarke planted the ball in the back of the net.
After enjoying a promising first quarter when they trailed by just a solitary point, Carlow were now in complete disarray and the game was all over as a contest at half-time with Longford leading by the wide margin of 13 points, 3-8 to 1-1.
Carlow, to their credit, tried very hard to put a more respectable look on the scoreboard in the second half and their perseverance was rewarded as they outscored (1-5 to 0-5) a somewhat lethargic Longford side who were so far in front that they ended up losing their concentration.
Ten points was the eventual winning margin and on the evidence of the fine football they produced in the first half to crush the Carlow challenge in a short space of time, Longford will be quietly confident of getting the better of Kildare who were hard pressed to overcome Westmeath (1-12 to 1-8) in Mullingar in the first round proper.
Having said that, Westmeath have also made the most of their second chance to reach the last eight following their emphatic win (2-17 to 1-8) away to Wicklow in the qualifiers last week but from here on things are going to be a lot tougher in the Leinster Minor Championship.
Home advantage is certainly a bonus for Longford in their quest to qualify for a semi-final showdown against Wexford or Laois and their chances of beating Kildare will depend a lot on the battle to gain the upper hand at centrefield, although the loss of the injured corner-forward Rian Brady is a big blow.
The strong midfield pairing of Shane Kenny and David McGivney laid the foundations for the expected victory over Carlow and they clocked up 1-5 between them in the first half with Kenny converting a couple of frees and a ‘45.
McGivney fired over two fine points from play as Longford gradually got on top in the game, watched by a small attendance at Dr. Cullen Park on Wednesday evening of last week.
Commanding centre-half-back Dessie Reynolds also got his name on the scoresheet in landing a terrific long range effort while Jayson Matthews done well to ‘rob’ the ball away from a Carlow opponent before shooting over the bar in the 18th minute.
Longford were rampant after that with Shane Kenny and Robbie Clarke getting the crucial goals to open up a comfortable advantage and after Conor Berry landed a point, the dangerous Clarke hit the post in the 27th minute with Aidan McElligott blasting the rebound wide in his attempt to find the back of the net.
It was a frustrating game for the big full-forward, who had a point-blank shot well saved by the Carlow keeper Ciaran Byrne in the 12th minute and McElligott had to wait until the 59th minute before he eventually scored - flicking the ball over the bar when a goal was there for the taking.
But it did not matter as Longford could afford the luxury of kicking a total of eight wides in the first half and still managed to establish a massive 3-8 to 1-1 lead at the break with the Carlow goal from Conal O’Se in the 9th minute giving the home county a glimmer of hope before they eventually collapsed.
Just five more Longford points followed in the second half through Jayson Matthews, David McGivney (2), Nigel Rabbitte and McElligott but Robbie Clarke was unlucky not to complete a hat-trick of goals when his close range shot was blocked in the 55th minute.
Despite fighting a losing battle, gutsy Carlow came a lot more into the game in the second half and created a number of decent goal chances which will give Longford manager Gareth Johnston considerable cause for concern.
The losers did manage to find the back of the net in the 52nd minute through substitute Reece Denieffe in the 52nd minute, a dipping shot that caught out Longford keeper David Shannon.
The Carlow points on the changeover came from five different players - Niall Lowry, Shane O’Neill (free), Conall O’Se, James McGrath and Conor McGrath - as they kept plugging away until the bitter end.
CARLOW: Ciaran Byrne; Dylan Ramsbottom, Lee Moore, Keith Lillis; Cathal Gaffney (0-1), Jordan Kane, Evan Kelly; Fintan Harrington, Conor McGrath (0-1); James McGrath (0-1), Niall Lowry (0-1), Anthony Byrne; Shane O’Neill (0-1, free), Conor O’Toole, Conall O’Se (1-1).
Subs:- Cathal Bailey for A Byrne (injured, 29 mins); Reece Denieffe (1-0) for S O’Neill (46 mins); Dean Hayden for C O’Se (55 mins); Sean Bambrick for N Lowry (58 mins).
LONGFORD: David Shannon (Carrickedmond); Darragh McLoughlin (Clonguish), Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish), Cian Brady (Abbeylara); Russell Brady (Abbeylara), Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s, 0-1), Ronan Duffy (Clonguish); Shane Kenny (Rathcline, 1-3, 2 frees, 1 ’45), David McGivney (Mullinalaghta, 0-4); Rory Sullivan (Moydow Harpers), Conor Berry (Abbeylara, 0-1), Nigel Rabbitte (Abbeylara, 0-1); Robbie Clarke (Longford Slashers, 2-0), Aidan McElligott (Mullinalaghta, 0-1), Jayson Matthews (Mullinalaghta, 0-2).
Subs:- Cathal McCabe (Colmcille) for R Sullivan (19 mins); Eoin Higgins (Granard) for C Brady (injured, 46 mins); Ciaran Donohoe (Killoe) for J Matthews (48 mins); Enda Macken (Colmcille) for R Brady (58 mins); Sean Costello (Longford Slashers) for A McElligott (59 mins).
Referee: Davy Moore (Laois).