For the second year in succession, Longford knocked Westmeath out of the Leinster Minor Football Championship and once again it was a penalty goal that proved to be the decisive score in the local derby watched by a small attendance in the region of 300 at Pearse Park on Wednesday evening of last week.
Longford ended up winning by the fairly emphatic margin of six points in the finish in advancing to meet Wicklow (who lost to Offaly by four points in the opening round) in a Round 2 Qualifier at Pearse Park on Saturday next (throw-in 3pm) when a place in the quarter-final will be at stake.
After losing by ten points against Kildare in the opening round of the championship, Longford showed sufficient improvement through the back door to beat a wasteful Westmeath team who were guilty of some poor finishing and particularly so in the early stages of the second half when they enjoyed a dominant spell.
Rather unfortunate to be trailing by 0-5 to 0-3 at the break and who fell further behind when Barry McKeon landed a point in the opening minute of the second half, the visitors got their scoring act together to fire over three quick points on the trot through Lorcan Dolan, David McCormack and Robbie Henshaw to level matters and looked the likely winners at this stage.
But Westmeath then kicked a couple of costly wides in failing to take a crucial lead and Longford showed a lot of character in recovering to regain the upper hand with a brace of points from frees converted by James McGivney after Barry McKeon was fouled.
Then came the turning point of the game in the 46th minute when the impressive McKeon, after receiving the ball from substitute Paudge Gill, was impeded just inside the square and Meath referee David Gough awarded a penalty.
Up stepped Robbie Smyth to blast the spot kick into the back of the net and that was a real shattering blow for Westmeath who suffered another setback when centre-half-back Paddy Holloway was sent-off after receiving a straight red card for lashing out at Longford substitute Brian Walsh in the 52nd minute.
In between James McGivney fired over another free after yet another foul on the dangerman Barry McKeon who was a lot more effective when staying put in the full-forward-line on the changeover after operating the roving role of a third midfielder in the first half.
McKeon inflicted more damage when kicking a fine point from play in the 54th minute to leave Longford in a commanding 1-10 to 0-6 lead and Westmeath substitute David Whelan grabbed a late consolation score.
Longford were certainly flattered by their eventual winning margin but Martin Mulleady’s side managed to make better use of the scoring chances that came their way and the five first half points were registered by Robbie Smyth (two frees), James McGivney, Conor Clarke and Cillian Lynn (‘45’).
Ger Leech (free) and defenders Killian Daly and John Rock replied for Westmeath who raised the level of their performance for a while in the second half, only to eventually lose their way against a determined Longford minor team who showed a greater will to win.
LONGFORD: Gareth Higgins (Carrick Sarsfields); Michael McHugh (Northern Gaels), Barry O’Farrell (Carrick Sarsfields), John Gill (St. Dominic’s, Kenagh); Shane Clarke (Killoe), Brian Collum (St. Vincent’s, Drumlish/Ballinamuck), Cian Farrelly (Killoe); James McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-4, three frees), Timmy Jackson (Granard/Ballymore); Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe), Conor Clarke (Longford Slashers, 0-1), Cillian Lynn (Wolfe Tones, Mostrim, 0-1, ‘45’); Barry McKeon (Colmcille, 0-2), Robbie Smyth (Northern Gaels, 1-2, goal from penalty, two points from frees), Gary Maguire (St. Francis, Dromard).
Subs:- Martin Mulligan (Colmcille) for M McHugh (injured, 16 mins); Ross McNerney (Colmcille) for G Maguire (28 mins); Brian Walsh (Longford Slashers) for C Lynn (35 mins); Paudge Gill (St. Vincent’s) for T Jackson (44 mins); Emmet Noonan (St. Vincent’s) for S Clarke (59 mins).
WESTMEATH: Michael McMahon; David Lynch, James Ganley, Killian Daly (0-1); Gary Greville, Paddy Holloway, John Rock (0-1); Robbie Henshaw (0-1), Ray Connellan; David Fennell, David McCormack (0-1), Robbie Greville; Lorcan Dolan (0-1), Dean McNicholas, Ger Leech (0-1, free).
Subs:- Andrew O’Sullivan for D Fennell (44 mins); Paul Maxwell for D Lynch (46 mins); Paul Fennell for D McCormack (49 mins); Cian Bradley for R Greville (54 mins); David Whelan (0-1) for R Connellan (58 mins).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).