Longford defender Barry McKeon rises high to win the ball ahead of Offaly opponent Peter Cunningham. Photo Declan Gilmore
Longford made a great start to the new season in Division 3 of the National Football League when they cruised to a big win over a most disappointing Offaly side at Bord Na Mona O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Sunday last.
With the advantage of the stiff wind the visitors had built up a commanding 0-14 to 1-1 lead at the break with Robbie Smyth the main man in firing over a total of six points (three frees). Robbie was a constant threat and particularly impressive was his brilliant strike from near the sideline in the 21st minute.
Sean McCormack (3), Rian Brady (2), half back Barry Gilleran (2) and goalkeeper Paddy Collum (‘45) were also on target for Longford who were on top in most positions on the pitch and recovered really well after conceding a goal in the 10th minute.
Cian Donoghue planted the ball in the back of the net and when Bernard Allen shot over the bar moments later the sides were all square, 1-1 to 0-4.
But Longford then took over completely to shoot eight points in a row, landing some cracking efforts in the process of tearing Offaly apart, and went further in front with a point from Robbie Smyth and a goal from Sean McCormack (set up by Conor Berry) with just a couple of minutes gone on the changeover.
McCormack and Darren Gallagher (with the final pass) were involved in another slick move that led to Rian Brady flicking the ball to the Offaly net in the 42nd minute and a third goal materialised just sixty seconds later as lively Longford continued to cause havoc against poor opposition.
Michael Quinn and Robbie Smyth linked up to create the clear-cut opening for Conor Berry to flick the ball into the net from point-blank range.
Three more points followed from Dessie Reynolds, Sean McCormack (whose goal attempt was parried over the bar by the opposing keeper Alan Mulhall) and Robbie Smyth (free) to leave Longford in a most emphatic 3-18 to 1-8 lead by the 67th minute.
In giving Offaly some sort of credit they did manage to close the gap with five consolation points in the closing stages through Cian Johnson, substitute Shane Tierney (2), Anton Sullivan (free) and Bernard Allen and ended the game with 14 players when Cian Donoghue (second yellow) was sent-off in stoppage time.
It was a strong performance by Longford and another boost is the return of Diarmuid Masterson who was listed among the substitutes against Offaly.
Denis Connerton’s side were very sharp and can now look forward with considerable confidence to their next league fixture against Derry at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday.
With four home fixtures to come in the so competitive Division 3, the others against, Wexford, Westmeath and Fermanagh, Longford are looking good to consolidate their league status but the players are only too well aware that they are facing a few far tougher tasks in the campaign.
Having said that, the away supporters left O’Connor Park extremely satisfied after watching the clinical manner in which Longford demolish Offaly with the lethal full-forward-line of Robbie Smyth, Sean McCormack and Rian Brady clocking up a total of 2-14 between them.
With this sort of scoring power, they will certainly hold no fears about taking on Derry (minus the Slaughtneil players preparing for the All-Ireland Club semi-final against Nemo Rangers) and should the midlanders succeed in collecting two more vital points in the second round clash at Pearse Park then there is a realistic chance of promotion.
Longford showed a lot more urgency than Offaly, starting with a new-look team, and made a flying start to race into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after eight minutes with the points coming from four different players - Rian Brady, Robbie Smyth (free), Barry Gilleran and Sean McCormack.
But for a brief period when the home county scored 1-1 the force was firmly with Longford and during the rest of the match they registered the tremendous total of 3-14 with the players clearly in a confident mood following the positive performances in the O’Byrne Cup.
OFFALY: Alan Mulhall; David Brady, Paul McConway, Sean Pender; David Dempsey, Cian Donoghue (1-0), James Lalor; Shane Nally, Craig Dunne; Jordan Hayes, Anton Sullivan (0-2, one free), Michael Brazil; Bernard Allen (0-3, one free), Cian Johnson (0-3), Nigel Dunne (0-1, free).
Subs:- Joey O’Connor (0-1) for J Lalor (28 mins); Peter Cunningham for J Hayes (34 mins); Niall Darby for M Brazil (49 mins); Conor McNamee (0-1) for C Dunne (49 mins); John Moloney for D Brady (55 mins); Shane Tierney (0-2) for N Dunne (61 mins).
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels, 0-1 ‘45); Patrick Fox (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s), Padraig McCormack (Killoe Emmet Og), Peter Foy (Longford Slashers); Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers, 0-2), Michael Quinn (Killoe Emmet Og), Barry McKeon (Colmcille); Darren Gallagher (St Mary’s Granard), Andrew Farrell (Cashel); Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s, 0-1), Conor Berry (Abbeylara, 1-0), Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Emmet Og); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara, 0-8, four frees), Sean McCormack (Killoe Emmet Og, 1-4), Rian Brady (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s, 1-2).
Blood Sub:- Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s) for P Foy (17 mins);
Subs:- Ronan McEntire (Dromard) for D Gallagher (55 mins); David McGivney (Mullinalaghta St Columba’s) for A Farrell (55 mins); P Foy for P Fox (55 mins); James McGivney (MullinalaghtaSt Columba’s) for D Reynolds (61 mins); Pauric Gill (Fr Manning Gaels) for D Mimnagh (64 mins); Shane Donohue (Rathcline) for C Berry (injured, 67 mins).
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).
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