Thursday 21 September 2017

Berry gets Longford over line after Rabbitte salvo

Longford 2-6 Kildare 0-10

Longford manager Frank McNamee. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Longford manager Frank McNamee. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Connor Berry was the hero for Longford, kicking two crucial points in the final quarter as they eventually wore Kildare down in a gripping contest played in challenging conditions at Hawkfield last night.

With the breeze at their backs Frank McNamee's Longford surged clear in the opening half, with two well-taken goals from Nigel Rabbitte helping them to a 2-3 to 0-1 half-time lead.

Paddy Woodgate's accuracy from frees gradually clawed the home side back into contention, however, and by the 46th minute they were level with Longford making little inroads at midfield against the elements.

Substitute Jack Robinson sent the Lilies ahead but two superb scores from Berry, who replaced injured captain Shane Kenny in the 21st minute, was enough to see them over the line and avenge their Leinster MFC final defeat two years ago against Kildare.

The lively Rian Brady opened the scoring for the underdogs, who had four from Longford SFC champions Mullinalaghta in their ranks, before Rabbitte's sliding soccer-style effort went in off the post.

Rabbitte burrowed further holes in the opposition defence six minutes later when a stray pass from Jamie Flynn was turned over and worked down the field to the Abbeylara attacker, who side-footed past Declan Campbell.

Kenny hit an inspirational score but was forced off soon after with a serious shoulder injury before Woodgate opened Kildare's account in the 21st minute with their only score of the opening half as a placed ball from Dave McGivney left eight in it at the break.

With senior star Ben McCormack taken off at half-time due to injury a Kildare comeback looked unlikely but sloppiness at the back from Longford allowed Woodgate to fire over five frees in quick succession upon the resumption.

Stephen Comerford surged forward to hit their first score from play in the 41st minute and two excellent efforts from substitute Cian Costigan had Kildare level.

There looked to be only one winner when Robinson sent them ahead in the 50th minute but that would be their final score as Berry steeped up to the plate with a monster point completely against the run of play to level affairs.

All of a sudden Longford believed again and with confidence seeping through them Berry repeated the dose with another super point before fellow substitute Jayson Matthews put the seal on a remarkable victory to set up a semi-final date with Dublin.

Scorers - Longford: N Rabbitte 2-0, C Berry 0-2, D McGivney (f), S Kenny, Rian Brady and J Matthews 0-1 each. Kildare: P Woodgate 0-6fs, C Costigan (1f) 0-2, S Comerford and J Robinson 0-1 each.

Longford - C Gallagher; K Sorohan, C Farrell, J Mooney; C Brady, D Reynolds, Russell Brady; D McGivney, S Kenny; J Kelly, N Rabbitte, P Lynn; Rian Brady, D Carrigy, A McElligott. Subs: C Berry for Kenny inj (21), E Higgins for Russell Brady (42), J Matthews for Carrigy (47), C Lee for Rabbitte (57).

Kildare - D Campbell; M Dempsey, D Maguire, M Hyland; R O'Giollan, S Ryan, S Comerford; J Flynn, D Courtney; C Kavanagh, B Kelly, C Hartley; P Woodgate, E Boyle, B McCormack. Subs: C Costigan for Flynn and J Robinson for McCormack (both h-t), K O'Callaghan for Boyle (45), J Costello for Kelly (57).

Ref - S Murphy (Louth)

Irish Independent

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