Wexford withstand Longford comeback to win the Leinster U-21 title

Cadbury Leinster U-21 Football Championship Final

Cadbury Leinster U-21 Football Championship Final

Wexford . . . . . . 1 – 9 Longford . . . . . . 0 – 11

Padraic O’Brien reporting from O’Moore Park, Portlaoise

Wexford withstood a great comeback by Longford in the final quarter of the game to win the Leinster U-21 Football Championship title for the first time and just a solitary point separated the sides in the finish after a highly entertaining floodlit final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Wednesday night.

After conceding a gift goal with 11 minutes gone in the first half with Wexford full-forward Killian Kehoe getting the vital touch after capitalising on a mistake by opposing keeper Paddy Columb, Longford trailed by 1-5 to 0-5 at the break with JJ Matthews and Robbie Smyth scoring a couple of points apiece – all from play.

With the aid of the wind in the second half, Wexford had increased their advantage to four points (1-7 to 0-6) entering the final quarter of the game but Longford came storming back to close the gap and points from John Keegan, James McGivney and Robbie Smyth (2) left the sides all square with eight minutes of normal time remaining.

Kevin Diffley then let the ball slip from his grasp as Longford launched another attack and Wexford broke immediately to regain the lead with Emmet Kent landing a well struck long range effort as a very exciting finish unfolded in front of the official attendance of 3,123 – most of whom were from Longford.

A minute into stoppage time, man-of the-match midfielder Michael O’Regan fired over a wonderful free from over 50 yards out near the sideline to increase the Wexford advantage and while Kevin Diffley replied with a point for Longford they just failed in a brave bid to capture the Leinster U-21 title for a historic first time.

LONGFORD: Paddy Columb (Fr. Manning Gaels); James Carroll (Rathcline), Fergal Battrim (Abbeylara), Aaron Quinn (Fr. Manning Gaels); Shane Mahon (Abbeylara), Colm P Smith (Abbeylara, captain), Diarmuid Cooney (Fr. Manning Gaels); Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon, 0-1), John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 0-1); Padraig McCormack (Killoe Young Emmets), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 0-2, frees), Marty Mulvey (Carrickedmond); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-4, one free), Darren Gallagher (Granard St. Mary’s), JJ Matthews (Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s, 0-3).

Subs:- James Noonan (Fr. Manning Gaels) for D Gallagher (21 mins); Fergal Reilly (Fr. Manning Gaels) for S Mahon (54 mins).

WEXFORD: Richard Farrell; Michael Furlong, Sean Gaule, James Breen; Derek Butler, John Leacy, Conor Carty (0-1); Matthew O’Hanlon, Michael O’Regan (0-2, one free); Liam Og McGovern, Emmet Kent (0-1), Paudie Kelly (0-3); Kevin O’Grady (0-2, one free), Killian Kehoe (1-0), Brendan Halpin.

Subs:- Declan Murphy for B Halpin (42 mins); Tiernan Rossiter for K Kehoe (56 mins); Barry O’Gorman for K O’Grady (60 mins).

Referee: Gary McCormack (Dublin).