Andrew Farrell pictured in action for Longford against Louth in the closing stages of the recent All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 1A game in Drogheda. Photo: Declan Gilmore
Longford proved yet again that they are the ‘Kings of the qualifiers’ as they produced another stunning display to defeat Louth in sweltering heat on Saturday evening last in Drogheda.
Louth . . . 1-10 Longford . . . 2-15
The weather was energy sapping but the Longford players gave everything they had. It’s very hard to single out any one player for praise because it was very much a team performance.
The backs defended like warriors when they had to, while the Mullinalaghta duo of John Keegan and David McGivney won vital ball in the middle of the park.
The Longford forwards gave Louth’s defence a torrid time. Daniel Mimnagh, Liam Connerton and Barry McKeon were excellent and Robbie Smyth proved once again he’s one of the best forwards in the country. The Abbeylara man kicked seven points (four frees) with the highlight being a point from a sideline ball just before half-time.
Already without the injured Sean McCormack, Longford suffered further bad news before the game as Darren Gallagher failed a late fitness test and was ruled out. Daniel Mimnagh came in for the Granard man and put in a solid performance.
Four red cards were brandished but it was by no means an over zealous contest. Longford’s Robbie Smyth was dismissed in the 57th minute for a second yellow card and Louth had three players see red - sub Tommy Durnin (2 yellows), Patrick Reilly (2 yellows) and Ryan Burns (straight red).
The red cards didn’t influence proceedings as Longford, in reality, had matters wrapped up either side of half-time when they scored an unanswered 1-4.
It was 0-5 apiece when three points from the boot of Robbie Smyth and another from defender Barry Gilleran ensured that Longford, who were defeated by Laois in the opening round of the Leinster Championship, enjoyed a 0-9 to 0-5 interval advantage.
Two minutes into concluding half, Liam Connerton drilled a penalty to the net, giving them a commanding seven points cushion, 1-9 to 0-5. Louth did manage to reduce the deficit to three points at one stage, 1-9 to 1-6 after 43 minutes, but resilient Longford kept them at bay and Barry McKeon’s 63rd minute goal put the icing on the cake.
It was the second year in a row that the ‘Wee County’ failed to get past the first hurdle in the qualifiers, whereas Longford will be hoping for a repeat of the heroics they produced in 2016 when they accounted for Down (after extra time) and Monaghan in rounds one and two, before ultimately bowing out at the hands of Cork in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.
Their performance was much transformed from the one that saw them lose to Laois in the opening round of the Leinster Championship and winning in Drogheda was significant. It isn’t a happy hunting ground and Denis Connerton’s charges lost their somewhat controversially during the Allianz NFL earlier this year.
When Longford square up to Donegal in Round 2A of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers, it will be the county’s 34th game in the qualifiers since their introduction in 2001.
Right from the throw-in, Longford took the game to Louth. Smyth set Michael Quinn up for the game’s opening score in the fourth minute and minutes later the Abbeylara man opened his account with a neat point.
James Califf (free) and Smyth traded points, 0-1 to 0-3, before John Bingham and Califf (free) levelled for Louth in the 17th minute, 0-3 apiece.
At the opposite end, Longford had plenty of possession and carved out some decent chances however their finishing didn’t match their approach play.
Colin Kelly’s Louth, who lost to Meath in the Leinster quarter-final, took the lead for the first and only time in the 21st minute through Califf, 0-4 to 0-3.
David McGivney (free) drew Longford level for the second occasion and then Liam Connerton kicked over a lovely point to regain the lead for the visitors, 0-4 to 0-5.
Jim McEneaney equalised for Louth - the third and final time the sides were deadlocked - and this score was also to be their last for 13 minutes as Longford hit a purple patch.
During the closing five minutes of the opening moiety, Smyth converted a free from 45 metres out to put Longford back in front. Defender Barry Gilleran showed his attacking instincts as he got up to score a point and then Smyth raised two more white flags from a free and a truly exquisite sideline strike to leave his side four points in front at the interval, 0-5 to 0-9.
Two minutes into the second half and Longford were awarded a penalty after Anthony Williams handled the ball in the small rectangle. Connerton stepped up and powerfully shot past Craig Lynch to put Longford seven points clear.
Louth replied with a point from substitute Ryan Burns and then a goal from Eoin O’Connor in the 43rd minute, 1-6 to 1-9.
Momentum seemed to be with the home side but Longford dug deep and disciplined defence ensured they were unable to manufacture the scores that would haul back into contention.
After kicking two wides in a row, Longford got a much needed point in the 47th minute through Dessie Reynolds. Three more soon followed courtesy of Smyth (2) and McGivney, making it 1-6 to 1-13.
Denis Connerton’s side found themselves to reduced to fourteen men in the 57th minute after Smyth picked up a second yellow card.
Louth worked hard to make their numerical advantage count and they managed to pull back two points, but their numerical superiority was soon wiped as referee Noel Mooney gave Tommy Durnin his second yellow card of the contest in the 62nd minute.
As if that blow wasn’t enough, the excellent Barry McKeon powered through for Longford’s second goal, 2-13 to 1-8. Louth tacked on two consolation points before the final whistle but their misery was compounded as Patrick Reilly (2 yellows) and Ryan Burns (straight red) were also sent off, meaning they finished with 12 players.
Longford ended the match on a high with John Keegan applying the finish for a point after a well worked move.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Padraig McCormack (Killoe Emmet Og), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers, 0-1); Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s), Michael Quinn (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1), Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s, 0-1); John Keegan (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s, 0-1), David McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s, 0-2, frees); Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard), James McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s), Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Emmet Og); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-7, four frees), Liam Connerton (Rathcline, 1-1, goal from penalty), Barry McKeon (Colmcille, 1-0).
Subs:- Andrew Farrell (Cashel) for B Gilleran (61 mins); Larry Moran (Killoe Emmet Og, 0-1) for J McGivney (65 mins), Conor Berry (Abbeylara) for D McGivney (67 mins); Cian Farrelly (Killoe Emmet Og) for B McKeon (70 mins); Paul McGee (Dromard) for D Reynolds (70 mins); Rian Brady (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s) for D Brady (70+2 mins).
LOUTH: Craig Lynch; Padraig Rath, John Bingham (0-2), Kurt Murphy; James Stewart, Darren McMahon, Anthony Williams; James Califf (0-3, 0-2 frees), Andy McDonnell; Ruairi Moore, Paraic Smith, Bevan Duffy; Patrick Reilly, Eoin O’Connor (1-0), Jim McEneaney (0-1).
Subs:- Declan Byrne for J Stewart (28 mins), Andy Reid for K Murphy (37 mins), Tommy Durnin (0-1) for P Smith and Ryan Burns (0-2, 0-1 free) for Moore (40 mins), Gerard McSorley (0-1, 0-1 free) for J McEneaney (47 mins), Derek Crilly for J Califf (55 mins).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).