Displaying a ruthless streak in a razor sharp attack, Longford gradually cut Louth to pieces in the Leinster U-21 Football Championship quarter-final at Pairc Chiaran in Newtowncashel on Wednesday night of last week.
Dublin (2-21 to 2-10 winners over Laois) are next up in the semi-final at Pairc Tailteann, Navan on Wednesday March 18th (7.30pm) and while there is a rich vein of confidence flowing through this talented Longford team, a far tougher task lies ahead against the reigning All-Ireland champions who are backboned by eight of last year’s successful side.
For the moment the midlanders can savour another emphatic win in reaching the last four of the Leinster U-21 Championship for the third year in succession but manager Francis McNamee will reflect with some concern on a brief period in the second half when their superiority was under threat.
Longford had established a commanding 0-11 to 0-4 advantage and were most unlucky not to be even further in front when Andrew Dalton burst through but was denied a goal when he shot against the post in the 37th minute, although Liam Connerton followed up to land a point in this same attack.
Moments later, Louth were given a glimmer of hope when corner-forward Conor Grimes shot to the back of the net and the gap was almost cut to just a solitary point when a close range shot from Cian Doyle was well saved by Longford keeper Colm Farrell in the 44th minute.
Longford were rather rattled in a troublesome spell but the pressure was lifted when Rory Connor raced through to fist the ball over the bar a couple of minutes later. Back came Louth and only a timely interception by defender Dessie Reynolds prevented the ball reaching the dangerman Ryan Burns in a goal scoring position.
But that was as good as it got for the wee county who fell further behind when Larry Moran landed another point and Longford then struck the killer blow when Liam Connerton scored a well-taken goal in the 51st minute, the direct result of Moran doing well to keep the ball in play.
The introduction of David McGivney in the 42nd minute certainly made a difference as he won some vital possession with his fielding ability. After the Connerton goal, the Rathcline man shot over the bar and a further three points followed from Moran (a great effort), McGivney (free) and Connerton (free) as Longford ran out easy winners in the finish.
While the lethal combination of Moran and Connerton inflicted most of the damage in the full-forward-line, clearly reflected in the fact that the deadly duo clocked up 1-10 between them, a highlight of Longford’s first half performance was the terrific point from wing back Liam Sullivan who certainly made his presence felt in this game.
Powered by a high intensity start that yielded four scores in a row after just eight minutes, a brace from Larry Moran (play and free) with Paddy Kiernan and Liam Connerton also on target, Longford held a comfortable 0-8 to 0-2 lead at the break with the other points coming from Moran, Sullivan and Shane Kenny (two frees).
Louth had to wait until the 16th minute for their opening score, a free converted by Ryan Burns, and he repeated the feat in the 22nd minute. And Longford had a lucky escape on the stroke of half-time when netminder Colm Farrell did really well to keep out a goal attempt from Eoghan Lafferty after a Burns free came back off the upright.
Burns kicked Louth’s only point from play with two minutes gone in the second half (a fine strike from a tight angle) but Longford responded immediately with a score apiece from Larry Moran (free) and Andrew Dalton, the latter putting in a lot of hard work at centrefield while Ross McNerney and Rory Connor figured prominently in the half-forward-line.
Ryan Burns (free) fired over his fourth point and while the Conor Grimes goal in the 38th minute certainly gave Louth a lift, they were not good enough to salvage the situation and ended up getting lashed by the wide margin of 13 points.
Their tale of woe was complete when Eoghan Lafferty was sent-off for a black card offence in the 58th minute, after stopping Longford ace Larry Moran on yet another penetrating run through the defence, and Louth ended up with 14 players on the pitch after already using all six substitutes.
LONGFORD: Colm Farrell (Longford Slashers); Conor Shields (Clonguish), Andrew Farrell (Cashel), Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish); Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s), Cian Farrelly (Killoe Emmet Og), Liam Sullivan (St Mary’s Granard, 0-1); Fergal Sheridan (Colmcille), Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers, 0-1); Ross McNerney (Dromard), Rory Connor (Kenagh, 0-1), Shane Kenny (Rathcline, 0-2, frees); Larry Moran (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-6, two frees), Paddy Kiernan (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1), Liam Connerton (Rathcline, 1-4, one point from free).
Subs:- David McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s, 0-1, free) for S Kenny (42 mins); Mattie Gorman (Ballymore) for R Sweeney (46 mins); Killian Farrell (Ardagh St Patrick’s) for F Sheridan (47 mins); Anthony McBrien (Abbeylara) for L Sullivan (56 mins); Patrick Farrell (Carrickedmond) for P Kiernan (57 mins); Vinny Hourican (Colmcille) for R McNerney (58 mins).
LOUTH: Darren Breen; Andrew Smith, Cillian Kirk, John Connolly; Barry Faulkner, Darren Marks, Karl Faulkner; James Stewart, Wayne Campbell; Robert Quigley, Eoghan Lafferty, Robert Carr; Ryan Burns (0-4, three frees), Cian Doyle, Conor Grimes (1-0).
Subs:- Stephen Kilcoyne and Conor Carthy for A Smith and K Faulkner (half-time); Joe Hanna for D Marks (53 mins); Ciaran Ward for C Kirk (54 mins); Dean Maguire for C Doyle (55 mins); Ciaran Sheridan for W Campbell (57 mins).
Referee: David Hickey (Meath).