For the last time in the history of this celebrated competition, Longford Vocational Schools were crowned Leinster champions following an emphatic ten-point victory over Kildare at a bitterly cold Newtowncashel on Friday night of last week.
Having already played and beaten the Lilywhites in the early rounds, the midlanders came into this contest as the firm favourites. Despite getting off to a shaky start, the Longford students always appeared in control of this one sided affair and at no stage did their north Leinster counterparts threaten to rain on their parade.
Longford’s captain David McGivney played a leading role in their success. The Cnoc Mhuire student completely dominated the midfield stakes and notched up a personal contribution of 1-3. McGivney however was not the only hero in the blue and gold jersey with Rian Brady and Shane Kenny also putting in worthy performance over the hour mark.
With the recent cold snap, the fair weather supporters could have been forgiven for not attending this encounter, the near sub zero conditions however did not distract the core die-hard supporters who turned out in their droves to the mid Longford venue.
In the opening minutes, Kildare caught the hosts by surprise when they managed to breach Longford’s rearguard and snatch an early advantage, with just four minutes played. Conor Davin launched a hopeful ball down field where the unexpected high bounce caught Longford’s fullback line unaware.
The ball fell into the arms of Wayne Fitzpatrick who found himself one on one with the Longford keeper. Gary Kenny superbly saved Fitzpatrick’s initial shot, but Fitzpatrick made amends second time of asking drilling his shot low into the bottom right hand corner.
This stark warning served Longford well and as a result they tightened up their defense considerably. Centre-back Sean McKeogh flanked by Paddy Farrell and Shane Cosgrove marshalled their lines with aplomb while the inside fullback line of Andrew Farrell, Jack Rooney and Isreal Illunga easily mopped up the breaking ball around the danger zone. Remarkably just one of Kildare’s four-point total came from open play, the remainder coming from close range frees.
Midway through the first half, Longford laid down the foundations to their ultimate success. A brace of points from Diarmaid Murtagh and a well converted free from Shane Kenny got them back in touch. The visitors struggled to deal with the pace that Longford set and a fisted point from Nigel Rabbitt earned them parity.
Longford finally grabbed the lead in the 16th minute when a placed kick from Murtagh split the posts. Completely dominating now, Longford fired over three points in quick succession with Brady and two from McGivney pleasing the home supporters.
The midlanders cruised into a five-point command when they bagged their first goal with five minutes remaining to the interval. In their warm up before the game, the Longford management team of Ryan Plukett and James Carroll put their team through their paces with a number of attacking drills.
It was no surprise when one of these drills led to Longford’s opening goal. A fine-engineered move instigated of Diarmaid Murtagh quickly offloaded to Shane Kenny 25-metres from the Kildare goal line and once he got the ball into his hands autopilot switch on and he shattered to roof of the Kildare net.
After the break, Longford continued to impress and an early white flag effort from Rory Connor put eight points between the sides.
The Kildare team management introduced a number of substitutes into the fray in the second half in an attempt to find someway back. Their ploy however did not have the desired effect as Longford refused to show any leniency to their opponents.
A captain’s goal from David McGivney in the 50th minute as good as secured Longford their first Leinster title since 2004. Kildare did manage a late consolation goal from by Neil Flynn in final minutes but by this stage the celebrations had begun in earnest for the newly crowned Leinster champions.
LONGFORD: Gary Kenny, Jack Rooney, Andrew Farrell, Isreal Illunga, Paddy Farrell, Sean McKeogh, Shane Cosgrove, David McGivney (1-3), Aidan McElligott, Mattie Gorman, Shane Kenny (1-1, f), Nigel Rabbitte (0-2), Rian Brady (0-4), Rory Connor (0-1), Diarmuid Murtagh (0-3, 3f).
Subs used: Liam Sullivan for M. Gorman (53 mins), Fergus Farrell for R. Connor (54 mins), Diarmuid Fitzsimons for I. Illunga (55 mins), Niall Sheehy for N. Rabbitte (57 mins), Eoin Sorohan for D. Murtagh (58 mins).
KILDARE: Craig Shannon, Paul Mescall, James Hendy, Conor Coyle, Brian Cawley, Jamie Flynn, Lorcan O’Rourke, Conor Davin, Jamie Connolly, Brian McGrath, Mark Byrne, Bank Agunsoye (0-1), Jake Corrigan, Wayne Fitzpatrick (1-2, 2f), Neil Flynn (1-1, f).
Subs used: Kenneth Ennis for L. O’Rourke (30 mins), Jake Kennedy for J. Corrigan (40 mins), Jamie Cox for C. Coyle (42 mins), Leon McCabe for W. Fitzpatrick (51 mins), Lee Moore for B. Crawley (55 mins).
Referee: Sean Carroll (Westmeath).