Robbie Smyth on the attack for Longford against Tipperary. Action from the National Football League Division 3 game at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday evening last. Photo: Declan Gilmore
Another bad start led to Longford’s downfall against Tipperary in the rearranged National Football League Division 3 fixture at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday evening last and the midlanders are now facing a relegation battle.
Allianz National Football League Division 3 - Round 4
Tipperary . . . . 3-17 Longford . . . . 0-18
The concession of a couple of early goals proved to be a decisive factor in the eventual outcome and with just nine minutes gone on the clock the rattled visitors trailed by nine points, 2-4 to 0-1.
But just like they had to do in the previous defeats against Armagh and Louth, a very determined comeback was launched by Denis Connerton’s side and the gap was closed to just three points entering the final quarter of this highly entertaining encounter.
Longford were especially efficient in front of the posts, shooting just three wides, but Tipperary shook themselves when required and hit 1-4 without reply to settle the issue in a highly impressive seven-minute period (54th-63rd minute).
Corner-forward Conor Sweeney was an absolute class act, shooting the tremendous total of 2-7, while Michael Quinlivan’s switch to midfield in the second half subsequently halted Longford’s progress in their brave bid to salvage the situation.
Tipperary produced an explosive start to score two goals inside the opening seven minutes. A Josh Keane free got the home county off the mark before Jimmy Feehan turned over the ball in the middle of the field and picked out Conor Sweeney with a terrific forty-metre delivery. Sweeney had ghosted in behind the Longford full-back line and once he gathered possession, he steadied himself to drill home a left-foot shot.
Longford hit back with a Robbie Smyth free but Conor Sweeney was enjoying his one-on-one match-up in the full-forward-line and booted over a classy effort in the 6th minute.
Tipperary conjured another turnover deep inside the Longford half in the 7th minute and Jimmy Feehan raced through before finishing the ball to the net off his right foot (2-2 to 0-1).
There was a real sting in Tipperary and Philip Austin illustrated as much in the 8th minute when his bustling run culminated with a left-footed finish and then Conor Sweeney swung over a free to leave Tipperary in a commanding nine points lead.
Longford responded well with three points. Wing-back Michael Quinn landed the first of his three first half points in the 10th minute before a Robbie Smyth free extended his side’s tally to three. Liam Connerton demanded a good save from Tipp keeper Evan Comerford in the 14th minute before Michael Quinn notched another point as Tipperary failed to clear effectively (2-4 to 0-4).
In the 15th minute Kevin O’Halloran landed a great point for Tipperary. A Longford score from Sean McCormack reduced the deficit but the home side responded through Brian Fox and a Conor Sweeney brace. Sweeney’s dummy left and smooth finish in the 20th minute left nine between the sides again (2-8 to 0-5).
Michael Quinn and Conor Sweeney traded points before Longford proceeded to take control to win the remainder of the half 0-6 to 0-1.
Three converted frees, two from Robbie Smyth and another from Seán McCormack, set Longford on the road to recovery. Diarmuid Masterson then landed a neat effort from play in the 32nd minute before a brace from Robbie Smyth (one free) reduced Tipperary’s lead to three.
In the third minute of first half injury-time Josh Keane recycled possession smartly for Liam Casey to score and thus Tipperary led by 2-10 to 0-12 at the break.
Longford closed the gap to three again four minutes into the second half through substitute Larry Moran and could have transformed the trajectory of this game in the 42nd minute when threatening to create a goal chance of real note but Tipperary player Kevin O’Halloran made a vital interception to stop the danger.
Philip Austin and George Hannigan combined smartly in the 44th minute for the latter to notch the opening Tipperary score in the second half. Longford midfielder John Keegan then profited from a sloppy clearance soon after to land a point but Tipperary hit back when Kevin O’Halloran booted over a long range free (2-12 to 0-14).
A placed ball from Robbie Smyth dragged Longford to within three of their hosts in the 53rd minute but Tipperary responded in real style in producing the sort of tremendous form that got them through to the All-Ireland SFC semi-final last year.
Liam Boland set up Conor Sweeney for a smashing point in the 54th minute before Kevin O’Halloran landed a brilliant long range free. A Conor Sweeney free propelled Tipp into a six-point lead entering the final ten minutes before Michael Quinlivan sparked a move which also featured Robbie Kiely. The centre-half-back burst through and then fed Conor Sweeney who beat the Longford keeper Paddy Collum with a punched finish. Liam Boland then landed an absolute beauty in the 63rd minute and Tipperary led by ten (3-16 to 0-15).
Longford responded with consolation points from Robbie Smyth (free) and substitutes Ronan McEntire and Brian Farrell with Tipperary bringing the scoring to a close when Michael Quinlivan belted over a terrific long range free three minutes into stoppage time.
With just three league games remaining, Longford are stuck on the same number of points (2) as Antrim, Laois and Offaly and badly need a win at home to Sligo on Sunday next to ease their relegation worries.
TIPPERARY: Evan Comerford; Alan Campbell, Paddy Codd, Willie Connors; Emmet Maloney, Robbie Kiely, Jimmy Feehan (1-0); Liam Casey, George Hannigan (0-1); Josh Keane (0-1, f), Kevin O’Halloran (0-3, 2f), Brian Fox (0-1); Conor Sweeney (2-7, 3f), Michael Quinlivan (0-1, f), Philip Austin (0-2).
Subs:- Liam Boland (0-1) for G Hannigan (46 mins); Shane O’Connell for W Connors (48 mins); Kevin Fahey for E Moloney (60 mins); Alan Moloney for L Casey (64 mins); Joseph Hennessy for R Kiely (two minutes into stoppage time).
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond); Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St Columba's), Padraig McCormack (Killoe Emmet Og), Michael Quinn (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-3); Darren Gallagher (St Mary's Granard), John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St Columba's, 0-1); Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard, 0-1), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba's), Barry McKeon (Colmcille); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-7, six frees), Liam Connerton (Rathcline), Sean McCormack (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-3, two frees).
Subs:- Andrew Farrell (Cashel) for D McElligott (black card, 21 mins); Larry Moran (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1) for B O’Farrell (26 mins); Brian Farrell (Mostrim, 0-1) for J McGivney (half-time); Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Emmet Og) for D Masterson (51 mins); Ronan McEntire (Dromard, 0-1) for D Gallagher (57 mins).
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).
Round 5 Fixtures
Sunday 19 March
Longford v Sligo
Louth v Armagh
Offaly v Tipperary
Antrim v Laois