If Longford are to make any impact in this year’s Leinster Minor Football Championship they will have to do it via the backdoor following a six points first round defeat against Laois in very blustery conditions at O’Moore Park on Wednesday evening of last week.
It was a disappointing and poor display from Martin Mulleady’s side who found the going too tough against a better Laois team. After being knocked out of the minor championship by Longford last year, Laois had a real desire to avenge that result and that’s exactly what they did but Longford will get a second chance in the qualifiers away to Meath in Navan on Wednesday evening next, May 1st.
It was a miserable experience all round for Longford last week; as well as the defeat and the wintry conditions they had two players sent-off near the end following an incident close to the Laois goals. First Larry Moran received a second yellow card before Aidan McElligott was shown a straight red card after referee Garrett Whelan had consulted with his umpires and thus Longford ended the game with 13 players on the pitch.
With eight members of the victorious All-Ireland winning Cnoc Mhuire, Granard team on the county minor panel it was a surprise that only three started. The biggest talking point before the game was the exclusion of talented forwards Rian Brady and Nigel Rabbitte. Both players came on in the second half but at that stage the damage had been done.
Playing with the wind in the first half, Laois made a good start to the game and fired over three early points; Evan Keane was on target from a free in the 4th minute and one minute later Eoin Lowry pointed. Tom Shiel then followed up with a well struck ’45 in the 6th minute.
Longford’s first chance of the game came in the 8th minute but Laois keeper Paddy O’Sullivan did well to deny captain Liam Sullivan. In the 11th minute the visitors registered their first point; Larry Moran was fouled and Martin Cassidy duly converted the free.
One minute later Laois keeper O’Sullivan pulled off an excellent save to deny Moran who then turned provider for Longford’s second point in the 13th minute; setting up Mattie Gorman.
In the 16th minute Keane got his second point to put two between them but that was to be the last score of the first half as the swirling wind played havoc with proceedings and denied both sides from getting more scores.
In the 28th minute Longford keeper Shane Fitzpatrick brought off a fine save to deny Laois full-forward Lowry. Longford had a few chances before the break but failed to convert any of them with the wind preventing the ball from going over the bar.
Trailing by 0-4 to 0-2, Longford decided to make a few positional changes at half-time, moving Aidan McElligott to midfield and pushing David McGivney up to full-forward. But whatever was said in the Laois dressing-room during the break had the desired effect because within two minutes of the restart they had opened up a six point lead.
First Dean Cullen was on hand to fire the ball past opposing keeper Fitzpatrick for the game’s only goal with just 20 seconds gone on the changeover and one minute later Shiel pointed a free. Longford responded with points from Martin Cassidy (free) and an excellent effort from Paddy Kiernan to come to within four of Laois who registered their 6th point of the game, from a Shiel free, in the 43rd minute.
Longford then squandered a great goal opportunity; Liam Sullivan played a quick free into David McGivney but he blasted his shot over the bar. Two minutes later Martin Cassidy got this third point but it proved to be Longford’s last score of the game.
Evan Keane tagged on two more points to leave Laois five in front going into the final 10 minutes. Wing-back Nigel Murphy then surged forward to fire over a fine effort in the 52nd minute and that was the last score of the game.
In the closing stages Longford piled on the pressure but just couldn’t get any more scores and right at the end their tale of woe was complete when Larry Moran and Aidan McElligott were both sent-off.
LAOIS: Paddy O’Sullivan; Adam Campion, David McDermott, Liam Knowles; Nigel Murphy (0-1), Conor Hagan, Darragh McCauley; Robert Dowling, Ciaran McEvoy; Dean Cullen (1-0), Tom Sheil (0-3, 2 frees, 1 ‘45), Daniel O’Reilly; Evan Keane (0-4, two frees), Eoin Lowry (0-1), Evan O’Carroll.
Subs:- Aaron Forbes for C McEvoy (first half stoppage time); Aidan Brennan for D Cullen (54 mins); Michael Keogh for T Shiel (57 mins), James Davis for L Knowles (58 mins).
LONGFORD: Shane Fitzpatrick (Killoe); Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s), Jason Earley (Abbeylara), Andrew Farrell (Cashel); Adrian Duffy (Longford Slashers), Aidan McElligott (Mullinalaghta), Ronan Sweeney (Clonguish); David McGivney (Mullinalaghta, 0-1), Patrick Farrell (Carrickedmond); Liam Sullivan (Granard), Paddy Kiernan (Killoe, 0-1), Cormac Hughes (Colmcille); Martin Cassidy (Fr. Manning Gaels, 0-3, two frees), Larry Moran (Killoe), Shane Kenny (Rathcline).
Subs:- Mattie Gorman (Ballymore, 0-1) for S Kenny (injured, 2 mins); Nigel Rabbitte (Abbeylara) for P Kiernan (46 mins); Rian Brady (Mullinalaghta) for M Gorman (53 mins); Fergal Sheridan (Colmcille) for P Farrell (injured, 58 mins).
Referee: Garrett Whelan (Wicklow).