Padraig Gill’s 50th minute goal proved to be decisive as Longford edged past Athlone IT in their final game in the O’Byrne Cup played in terrible conditions in Ballymahon on Sunday.
Gill finished off a neat move that started in the backline by substitute Enda Williams. Athlone got back into the game but two excellent points from Paul McKeon earned Longford a narrow win - their second of the competition.
The College’s forward line gave Longford’s defence trouble in the first half and forced them into fouls with Roscommon’s Cathal Shine pointing over the frees.
Both sides squandered early chances to open the scoring and it was Shine who registered the first score; firing over a free after Cillian Fitzgerald was fouled. One minute later a great catch by Simon Kiernan set up Cian Mimnagh for Longford’s opening score.
Shine fired over another free in the 14th minute before points from Brian Kavanagh and Gill put Longford ahead in the 18th minute.
Athlone replied with a great point from wing-back Levi Murphy and another free by Shine to restore their lead. Gill showed his defensive abilities in the 27th minute when he blocked down Shane Quinn’s goalbound effort. Longford were level minutes later when Mimnagh scored his second point.
A fine point from Drumlish’s Darren Farrelly put Athlone ahead again in the 33th minute and another Shine free gave them a two point lead going in at the break.
Longford made changes at the break and they made a difference with McKeon being a menace in the forward line and Williams tightening up defence.
Gill burst through minutes after the interval to put Longford within one point of their opponents but Athlone replied with a point from Adam Caul. Points were then traded between Ronan McEntire and Shine (free) as Athlone put two between the sides again in the 48th minute.
Two minutes later Longford grabbed the game’s only goal; Williams’ ball out of defence found McKeon, who in turn fed Shane Doyle and the Kenagh man set up Gill who made no mistake with a good finish.
Westmeath’s James Dolan levelled the game for the 5th time in the 52nd minute and then Longford created another goal chance in the 60th minute but Peter Foy shot straight at Athlone sub keeper Keith McGuire.
Minutes later Alan Stone fired over a ‘45 to put Athlone ahead but that was their final score. A great point from McKeon drew Longford level in the 65th minute and another fine effort from the Colmcille man gave Longford the lead.
Two minutes from time Longford were reduced to 14 when Kavanagh received a second yellow. Athlone had a chance right at the end to snatch a draw but Shine’s free fell short and Longford held on for the win.
Longford: Paddy Collum; Colm P Smyth, Fergal Battrim, Gerard Smith; Shane Cox, Peter Brady, Fergal Reilly; Kevin Diffley, Simon Kiernan; Ronan McEntire (0-1), Brian Kavanagh (0-1), Padraig Gill (1-2); Shane Doyle, Brian Farrell, Cian Mimnagh (0-2).
Subs: Enda Williams for Smith and Paul McKeon (0-2) for Farrell (half-time), John Keegan for Diffley (57 mins), Peter Foy for Mimnagh (58 mins), Diarmuid Cooney for Doyle (66 mins).
Athlone IT: Gary Connaughton; Eoin Kerrins, Jordan Cassidy, Jack Donoghue; Levi Murphy (0-1), Kieran Martin, Tom Mooney; Ciaran Duggan, Cathal Shine (0-5,5f); Adam Caul (0-1), Colm O’Brien, Shane Quinn; Cillian Fitzgerald, James Dolan (0-1), Alan Coffey.
Subs: Darren Farrelly (0-1) for Martin (25 mins), Keith McGuire for Connaughton (half-time), John Mulligan for Quinn (46 mins), Alan Stone (0-1,’45) for Caul (53 mins), Padraig McGahern for Coffey (62 mins).
Referee: Stephen Murphy (Louth).