SF Qualifier: lively Longford eliminate lasklustre Louth
17 June 2017
Louth's Bevan Duffy and Michael Quinn of Longford.
Longford roared to a 2-15 to 1-10 victory over Louth in Drogheda to ease into the second round of the Qualifiers.
The Wee County’s league form was nowhere to be seen as they simply failed to turn up, while the midlanders bossed them around their home patch from the first whistle to the last. The lethargic, disinterested losers finished the game with twelve men as substitutes Tommy Durnin and Ryan Burns were dismissed in the last ten minutes – as was Patrick Reilly.
Liam Connerton (penalty) and Barry McKeon netted after the break for Longford, who actually lost a man first when their top scorer Robbie Smyth picked up a second yellow card. But they had no reason to consider reaching for the panic button as they completely bossed this game from start to finish.
The winners dictated proceedings during the first half and were full value for their 0-9 to 0-5 lead at the break, with Smyth notching five of his team’s first-half scores and Denis Connerton’s charges also hitting seven wides during the opening period.
It was five apiece after 28 minutes but Longford - knocked out of Leinster by Laois - fired over the last four points before the interval to go in with a comfortable advantage.
Points from Michael Quinn and Smyth had the visitors two up after seven minutes. Qualifier specialists Longford were on top but a very lethargic-looking Louth side finally got off the mark when James Califf swung over a left-footed free in the 14th minute.
Smyth replied instantly but a purposeful James Stewart run created a second Wee County point for full back John Bingham before a second successful pointed Califf free from the ground had the sides level for the first time with a quarter of the contest gone.
Dreadnots clubman Califf popped up with the hosts’ third consecutive score as they moved in front for the first and last time; opposition midfielder David McGivney (free) equalised and a Connerton effort had the visitors back in front with ten minutes left before the interval. An excellent Jim McEneaney strike brought the sides briefly back on terms again...
However, a lovely left-footed Smyth free edged the midlanders back in front and corner back Barry Gilleran took advantage of a poor kick-out to cut inside and double the difference, taking his point with a goal chance on – 0-7 to 0-5. Smyth won and converted a free to stretch the gap to three and then arrowed over a superb point from the sideline on the stroke of the short whistle.
Longford made a dream start to the second half when Connerton demonstrated great composure and quality to fire a penalty high to the Louth net and make it a seven-point game – 1-9 to 0-5.
Substitute Burns pointed within seconds of his introduction but the hosts still trailed by double scores with 41 minutes played. There had been nothing to suggest that Louth - soundly thrashed by Meath in the provincial phase of the championship - were capable of making a game of it but they were right back in contention by the 44th minute when Eoin O’Connor netted against the run of play following good work from another replacement, Adrian Reid – 1-9 to 1-6.
Wing back Dessie Reynolds danced through the Louth defence to take a superb Longford score and Smyth’s fifth point of the evening (free) left as many between the sides with 20 minutes left to play. David McGivney’s free at the three-quarters left six in it and there was simply no way back for a Louth side that never got out of second gear.
Smyth helped himself to another pointed free but was soon heading for an early shower after picking up a second yellow card and a red. Substitute Durnin reduced the gap to six with 13 minutes remaining and Bingham closed the deficit even further on the hour following a glaring Diarmuid Masterson miss at the other end. Any lingering hopes of an unlikely Louth escape act were effectively removed when Durnin was sent off and numerical equality was restored
McKeon settled the issue when he effortlessly batted off a couple of token Louth challenges to bury the ball to the net eight minutes from the end and leave as many points between the teams. Substitutes Burns and Larry Moran traded late scores as the match petered out towards an inevitable conclusion.
To compound Louth’s woes, Patrick Reilly and Burns also picked up late red cards as their bad day at the office turned into a nightmare. But there’s no taking away from Longford’s achievement in winning this game with tremendous aplomb to deservedly take their place in the second round of the Qualifiers.
Midfielder John Keegan’s tidy point late into injury time epitomised their quality and class in Drogheda today. Sub Gerard McSorley tagged on a late Louth consolation in the fifth minute of stoppage time and that score brought the Reds’ season to an end.
Longford - P Collum; D Masterson, P McCormack, D Brady; M Quinn (0-1), D McElligott, B Gilleran (0-1); J Keegan (0-1), D McGivney (0-2f); D Reynolds (0-1), J McGivney, D Mimnagh; R Smyth (0-7, 4f, 1sl), L Connerton (1-1, 1-0pen), B McKeon (1-0). Subs: A Farrell for B Gilleran, L Moran (0-1) for J McGivney, C Berry for D McGivney, C Farrelly for B McKeon, P McGee for D Reynolds, R Brady for D Brady.
Louth - C Lynch; P Rath, J Bingham (0-2), K Murphy; A Williams, D McMahon, J Stewart; J Califf (0-3, 2f), A McDonnell; R Moore, P Smith, B Duffy; P Reilly, E O’Connor (1-0), J McEneaney (0-1). Subs: D Byrne for J Stewart, A Reid for K Murphy, T Durnin (0-1) for P Smith, R Burns (0-2, 1f) for R Moore, G McSorley (0-1f) for J McEneaney.
Referee - N Mooney.