Although Kildare fielded a very experimental team they still proved too strong for a new-look Longford side who were short a number of regulars for different reasons and team manager Glenn Ryan and his selectors Liam Keenan and Padraic Davis availed of the opportunity to feature a few newcomers including Fr. Manning Gaels youngster James Noonan, a member of the minor team that won the Leinster Championship title in 2010.
David Barden was back in action for Longford after missing almost the entire 2010 inter-county season and while this was generally a struggle in the O'Byrne Cup first round round clash at St. Conleth's Park, Newbridge on Sunday last, at least Mullinalaghta debutant Donal McElligott emerged with some credit as he scored six of the eight points - four from frees.
Longford have another early season competitive fixture in the build-up to the National League as they will take on the losers of the postponed Offaly v D.C.U. game (refixed for Rhode this Wednesday night) in the opening round of the O'Byrne Shield at Pearse Park on Sunday next (throw-in 2pm) and while Glenn Ryan will probably experiment with some other newcomers a considerable improvement on the poor performance in Newbridge will hopefully be made.
Established Kildare players such as Johnny Doyle, Ronan Sweeney, James Kavanagh, Emmet Bolton, Rob Kelly, Peter Kelly, Morgan O'Flaherty, Brian Flanagan, Shane McCormack, Hugh McGrillen, Daryl Flynn and Andrew McLoughlin didn't make even the subs bench on Sunday last for one reason or another, while Dermot Earley and Mikey Conway remain on the injured list.
Into the team came former minor stars Tommy Moolick and Fionn Dowling. In attack Eoghan O'Flaherty kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely with frees and over the course of the 70 minutes every forward got their names on the scoresheet. After impressing against Wexford in a recent challenge match in Carlow Willie Heffernan took his place at full-forward and was a constant threat.
In contrast Longford relied heavily on the scoring prowess of centre-half-forward Donal McElligott. but the visitors were understrength and in reality O'Byrne Cup games will be long since forgotten come the Leinster Championship in May.
The January Tournament is a great platform for scoping out new talent in competitive action but that said Kieran McGeeney, as always, has set his sights on winning the O'Byrne Cup outright and Kildare will now meet the winners of the D.C.U. v Offaly game in the quarter-final.
For the most part of this encounter Kildare were dominant and brought a three point (0-9 to 0-6) lead into the dressing room at the interval. In the second period they out scored their opponents 0-7 to 0-2 to run out comfortable double score winners.
It was the visitors that drew first blood when midfielder Bernard McElvaney struck over a peach of a point from the right hand side and three minutes later they doubled their tally when Donal McElligott was on target.
Kildare's first score came from the boot of Mark O'Sullivan to half the deficit and parity was soon restored thanks to a converted free, taken off the ground, from Eoghan O'Flaherty. The Lilies then nudged themselves in front with eight minutes on the clock when a pass from Karl Ennis picked out Tommy Moolick for a point.
Longford responded with a point from McElligott (free) but that was cancelled out by a Paudie O'Neill effort to leave the score at 0-4 to 0-3 with 17 minutes played. Mark Scanlon added Kildare's fifth after a solo run forward, while on the 20th minute a point from Fionn Dowling saw McGeeney's side open up a 0-6 to 0-4 advantage.
Before the break Eoghan O'Flaherty, Eamonn Callaghan and Karl Ennis all raised white flags to bring Kildare's tally to nine. At the other end Donal McElligott and Paddy Dowd struck over to leave Longford trailing by three at the break, 0-9 to 0-6.
After the turn around Kildare tagged on three points without response to open up a 0-12 to 0-6 lead before a raft of substitutions appeared for both sides. A further brace of scores from McElligott reduced the deficit somewhat for Longford but Kildare were always in charge and never once looked uncomfortable or in trouble.
Fionn Dowling chipped in with another point, his second of the day, while O'Flaherty and Willie Heffernan also split the posts. To finish it off Eoghan O'Flaherty knocked over a 21 yard free following a foul on Alan Smith to complete the facile victory for the home side. Scorers: Kildare - Eoghan O'Flaherty 0-6 (5f), Fionn Dowling 0-2, Mark O'Sullivan 0-2, Tommy Moolick 0-1, Paudie O'Neill 0-1, Mark Scanlon 0-1, Eamonn Callaghan 0-1, Karl Ennis 0-1, Willie Heffernan 0-1. Longford - Donal McElligott 0-6 (4f), Bernard McElvaney 0-1, Paddy Dowd 0-1.
KILDARE: Shane Connolly; Ollie Lyons, Damien Hendy, Ciaran Fitzpatrick; Mark Scanlon, Michael Foley, Eamonn Callaghan; Hugh Lynch, Padraig O'Neill; Tommy Moolick, Eoghan O'Flaherty, Mark O'Sullivan; Karl Ennis, Willie Heffernan, Fionn Dowling.
Subs:- Alan Smith for F Dowling (55 mins); Eamonn McCormack for K Ennis (55 mins); David Whyte for H Lynch (55 mins); Conor Tiernan for T Moolick (68 mins).
LONGFORD: James McKenna (Sean Connolly's); Dermot Brady (Longford Slashers), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers), Declan Reilly (Colmcille); Colm P Smyth (Abbeylara), Kevin Diffley (Ballymahon), Shane Mulligan (Mullinalaghta); John Keegan (Mullinalaghta), Bernard McElvaney (Ballymore); Paul Kelly (Longford Slashers), Donal McElligott (Mullinalaghta), David Barden (Clonguish); James Noonan (Fr. Manning Gaels), Paddy Dowd (Clonguish), Sean
Subs:- Enda Williams (Clonguish) for P Kelly (33 mins); Noel Farrell (Colmcille) for CP Smyth (56 mins); Thomas Gallagher (Granard) for D Reilly (57 mins); JJ Matthews (Mullinalaghta) for J Noonan (57 mins); John O'Shea (Carrickedmond) for P Dowd (67 mins). Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath).
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