The wide margin of 17 points separated the sides in the finish as Longford walloped Wicklow to earn a crack at Louth in the Leinster U-21 Football Championship quarter-final, which is scheduled for Pairc Chiaran, Newtowncashel this Wednesday night (March 4th) with a 7.30pm throw-in.
On the basis that Louth were hard pressed to overcome Carlow (3-11 to 2-10) in their first round tie last week, Longford with home advantage again would appear to have a good chance of making it through to yet another semi-final appearance in the U-21 grade with Dublin or Laois providing the opposition at a neutral venue on Wednesday March 18th.
Having said that, Louth are backboned by ten of the players that featured in the quarter-final defeat against Meath last year (only after a replay) with rising young star Ryan Burns the dangerman in a strong full-forward-line so Longford are well warned.
The Cashel GAA grounds hosted the visit of Wicklow on Wednesday night of last week and apart from a scrappy first quarter when they struggled to assert their superiority on the scoreboard, the otherwise impressive Longford were in complete control against poor opposition.
Liam Connerton had a couple of goal chances for the home county before Larry Moran found the back of the net in the 9th minute, capitalising on a mistake by the Wicklow keeper. But the visitors hit back with a brace of points from frees converted by midfielder David Boothman and only trailed by 1-2 to 0-3 going into the second quarter.
Wicklow got off to a bright start with a well struck score in the 2nd minute while Moran (free) and Shane Kenny (free) fired over the early points for Longford, who gradually began to pull away with the aid of the stiff wind and ended up holding a comfortable 1-7 to 0-3 lead at the break following a further five scores.
Wing back Dessie Reynolds (a cracking effort), Larry Moran (free and play), Paddy Kiernan (a terrific long range kick) and Andrew Dalton (going close to getting a goal) were on target. And after Rory Connor squandered a goal chance in the early stages of the second half, Longford struck the killer blow.
Shane Kenny set up corner-back Conor Shields, who made no mistake in blasting the ball to the Wicklow net with five minutes gone on the changeover, and things got even better for Longford.
Liam Connerton was most unlucky not to score a goal when he shot against the post in the 40th minute but moments later the Rathcline attacker provided the perfect pass into Rory Connor who flicked the ball into the net from a few yards out.
Connerton eventually got his goal in the 45th minute when he drove a low shot in off the post to leave Longford in a landslide 4-7 to 0-4 lead, the direct result of a penetrating run by commanding centre-half-back Cian Farrelly.
Slick corner-forwards Liam Connerton and Larry Moran generally caused havoc whenever they received the ball and the Wicklow tale of woe continued as rampant Longford (even against the wind) clocked up another six points through Connerton, two in a row from substitute Killian Farrell, Rory Connor, Andrew Dalton and Moran (free).
It was a shattering experience for Wicklow, who got their opening score in the second half when Daire Henderson shot over the bar in the 46th minute, and they grabbed a consolation goal when Marc Lennon blasted the ball through the net in the 53rd minute.
It was a task well executed by a Longford team who showed a lot of promise in crossing the first hurdle with ease. And their ability to create goal scoring chances could prove to be a key factor in their quest to advance a stage further in the U-21 championship at the expense of Louth.
LONGFORD: Colm Farrell (Longford Slashers); Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish), Andrew Farrell (Cashel), Conor Shields (Clonguish, 1-0); Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s, 0-1), Cian Farrelly (Killoe Emmet Og), Liam Sullivan (St Mary’s Granard); Fergal Sheridan (Colmcille), Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers, 0-2); Ross McNerney (Dromard), Emmet Noonan (Fr Manning Gaels), Shane Kenny (Rathcline, 0-1, free); Larry Moran (Killoe Emmet Og, 1-4, three points from frees), Paddy Kiernan (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1), Liam Connerton (Rathcline, 1-1).
Subs:- Rory Connor (Kenagh, 1-1) for E Noonan (18 mins); David McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s) for P Kiernan (39 mins); Killian Farrell (Ardagh St Patrick’s, 0-2) for F Sheridan (45 mins); Patrick Farrell (Carrickedmond) for R McNerney (51 mins); Mattie Gorman (Ballymore) for L Sullivan (52 mins); Martin Mulligan (Colmcille) for A Farrell (56 mins).
WICKLOW: Andy Murphy; Barry Finan, James Kavanagh, Eoin Kelly; John Crowe (0-1), Daire Lohan, Conor Hatton; David Boothman (0-2, frees), Thomas Donohoe (0-1); Daire Henderson (0-1), Paul Ellis, Patrick Phelan; Conor French, Johnny Delahunt, Marc Lennon (1-0).
Subs:- Eoghan Marah for E Kelly (23 mins); Conor Healy for B Finan (half-time); Michael O’Connor for P Ellis (34 mins); Sean O’Brien for J Kavanagh (43 mins); Patrick O’Connor for P Phelan (51 mins).
Referee: Brendan Cawley