In the fourth tier All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship comprising just four teams, Longford were always going to be in a strong position to qualify for the Lory Meagher Cup Final for the second year in succession and duly achieved that objective with the wide margin of 19 points to spare over Warwickshire on Saturday last.
At a near deserted Glennon Brothers Pearse Park with around 50 spectators braving the bad weather, Longford gradually got on top to gain revenge for their disappointing defeat by the same opposition in the final last season. And Frank Browne’s side will be hoping to go one step further when they take on Fermanagh in the 2014 title decider at Croke Park on Saturday June 7th.
After winning the Round 1 game away to Leitrim the previous week, Longford knew what they had to do and were most emphatic in crushing the challenge of Warwickshire who failed to register a score in the second half. The results in the Lory Meagher Cup last weekend now means that there will be nothing at stake when Fermanagh (easy 3-16 to 1-9 winners at home to Leitrim) come to Pearse Park on Saturday next (2pm) for the final group fixture.
Longford manager Frank Browne may avail of the opportunity to give some other members of the squad a start in the warm up for the real thing three weeks later but will probably have to plan without Declan Tanner (St. Rynagh’s, Offaly) who is currently injured and was unable to feature against Warwickshire.
Browne must have been pleased with the overall team performance on Saturday last with all six forwards getting their names on the scoresheet while the defence and goalkeeper Paddy Cullen (who made a fine point-blank save in the second half) figured prominently in restricting the visitors to just four scores, including a solitary point from play.
But this was a much changed Warwickshire outfit from the team that started in the 2-16 to 1-10 win over Longford in the 2013 Lory Meagher Cup Final, with no less than 11 members of the first fifteen at Croke Park last June no longer playing for the exiles.
Warwickshire are a lot weaker now and it showed in a very poor display against a much superior Longford side who had the game all wrapped up at half-time, at which stage they had established a commanding 2-10 to 0-4 advantage with Joe O’Brien (26th minute) and Cathal Mullane (35th minute) scoring the goals.
O’Brien and Mullane combined to create the crucial scores while the Longford points in the first half came from John Newman (3), Gareth Ghee (3), Eoin Donnellan (2 frees), Kevin Conneely and industrious midfielder Johnny Casey.
Warwickshire had opened the scoring in the 4th minute when Pauric Crehan shot over the bar while their other three scores were registered by Sean Hennessy - two frees and a ‘65 - the last in the 29th minute.
That was as good as it got for the Birmingham based team who were reduced to 14 players when corner-back Seamus Brough was sent-off in first half stoppage time after receiving a second yellow card. And Warwickshire’s tale of woe was complete when Sean Hennessy received his marching orders for a second yellow card in the 56th minute.
So the losers ended up with 13 players on the pitch but were never really in contention against a well focused Longford team who added a further seven points to their tally in the second half - four from Joe O’Brien (one free) with Eoin Donnellan (two frees) and Cathal Mullane getting the other scores in this excellent win.
LONGFORD: Paddy Cullen (Wolfe Tones, Mostrim); Karl Murray (Longford Slashers), Brendan Stakem (Wolfe Tones), Rory Donnellan (Longford Slashers); Conor Egan (Birr, Offaly), Conor Flanagan (Oliver Plunkett’s, Mullingar), Paddy Corcoran (Clonguish Gaels); Johnny Casey (Longford Slashers, 0-1), Martin Coyle (Wolfe Tones); Eoin Donnellan (Longford Slashers, 0-4, all frees), Kevin Connelly (Ballinderry, Galway, 0-1), Gareth Ghee (Longford Slashers, 0-3); Joe O’Brien (Clonguish Gaels, 1-4, one point from free), Cathal Mullane (Killeedy, Limerick, 1-1), John Newman (Salthill Knocknacarra, Galway, 0-3).
Subs:- Paul Barden Jnr (Clonguish Gaels) for M Coyle (53 mins); Conor Keegan (Castletown Geoghegan, Westmeath) for C Mullane (57 mins); Luke Kelly (Wolfe Tones) for J Newman (57 mins); Ciaran Corcoran (Clonguish Gaels) for R Donnellan (64 mins); Cian Kavanagh (Longford Slashers) for E Donnellan (67 mins).
WARWICKSHIRE: Michael Cremin; Kevin Hally, John Bergin, Seamus Brough; Dwayne Sheedy, Donnacha Kennedy, Cormac Behan; Shane Conlon, Conor Robbins; Sean Hennessy (0-3, two frees, 1 ‘65), John Reddan, Niall McNamee; Pauric Crehan (0-1), Barry Gaffney, Emmet McCabe.
Subs:- Tom Kelly for E McCabe (43 mins); Stephen Walsh for P Crehan (47 mins); Brendan O’Leary for N McNamee (49 mins); Kieran Phelan for J Reddan (57 mins); Ciaran Boyle for B Gaffney (64 mins).
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer