LONGFORD'S emergence as a footballing force continues apace. At Croke Park last night, the Midlanders landed a League title for the second successive year. Division 4 champions in 2011, Longford made the step up to Division 3 with considerable ease and have finished a landmark season with more silverware.
Manager Glenn Ryan will be reluctant to voice it publicly but, on spring form, Longford are now deadly dangerous opponents for Laois in the Leinster SFC opener on May 20.
The winners of that tie play Wexford in the quarter-final and the Slaneysiders, despite losing last night, will have been encouraged by their second-half display but baffled by their first-half performance.
It was a devastating attacking display from Longford in the first half, when they led 1-10 to 0-3. And, despite being outscored by 0-2 to 0-10 in the second half, they held on to claim a famous win as midfielder Bernard McElvaney went close to a second goal in the 69th minute, denied by a fine Anthony Masterson save.
Three Sean McCormack frees and a point from Paul Barden had given Longford the early impetus, but Wexford's first point was a superb score, a left-footed free from the ground lofted over by Ciaran Lyng from tight on the Hogan Stand touchline.
But it wasn't long before Longford, led majestically from centre-back by Michael Quinn, were 0-7 to 0-1 clear, before Redmond Barry kicked a 28th-minute point for Wexford.
Back came Longford with two points from top scorer McCormack, both from play, before substitute Paul Kelly netted with his very first touch in the second minute of first-half injury-time. Brian Kavanagh was the creator with a superb through-ball and Kelly, who had replaced yellow-carded Pádraig McCormack, kept his cool to slot soccer-style past the advancing Masterson.
Overall, desperately flat Wexford could have few complaints with Longford's half-time advantage as captain Paul Barden led by example and helped himself to three points from play before the break -- all of them long range efforts.
Scorers -- Longford: S McCormack 0-8 (6f), P Kelly 1-0, P Barden 0-3, B Kavanagh 0-1; Wexford: C Lyng 0-4 (3f), R Barry 0-3 (1f), S Roche 0-2, A Flynn, B Brosnan, E Bradley, PJ Banville 0-1 each.
Longford: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; CP Smyth, M Quinn, S Mulligan; B McElvaney, J Keegan; P McCormack, P Barden, N Mulligan; D McElligott, B Kavanagh, S McCormack. Subs: P Kelly for P McCormack (35+1), J McGivney for Mulligan (60), P Foy for Keegan (68), F McGee for McElligott (70).
Wexford: A Masterson; R Tierney, G Molloy, N Murphy; A Flynn, D Murphy, B Malone; A Shore, D Waters; E Bradley, PJ Banville, B Brosnan; R Barry, C Lyng, C Morris. Subs: L Chin for N Murphy (20), R Quinlivan for Shore (45), P Byrne for Brosnan (45), S Roche for Morris (51), C Carty for Bradley (70+1).
Referee: C Lane (Cork).