Connerton thrilled as Longford stun Monaghan
Longford 2-13 Monaghan 1-13
This is what championship football - and the qualifiers in particular - should be about as Longford, rank outsiders, ended Monaghan's summer in their own back yard with a fired-up display that was full of character.
Longford have a great record for shocks since the backdoor system came in but few Monaghan supporters saw this one coming. A side which has won two Ulster titles and reached the final the other year since Malachy O'Rourke took charge had genuine hopes that 2016 would be a glorious summer.
Instead, it's over, ended by a Longford side who came to Clones in 2004 in the only other championship meeting between the counties and dumped them out as well back then. Denis Connerton was the man in charge of the raiders that day as well and he came back on Saturday night with his son Liam a key member of a Longford side which he has rebuilt.
"This is fantastic for these young guys, these young men that have played with us all season. It's a really young team. We've restructured the team and brought in a lot of young guys who had very little experience playing inter-county football.
"They've dedicated themselves to the task and they've worked really hard at it. And this is a testament to the work they've done," said Connerton.
Longford blitzed Monaghan and raced into a 1-1 to 0-0 lead after just four minutes against the wind with Mickey Quinn finishing to the net after Connerton was denied.
And while Conor McManus eventually got Monaghan moving with a couple of points, Longford still led by five with eight minutes left in the opening half.
Then Monaghan took over and struck for 1-6 without reply to lead by 1-9 to 1-6 at the interval, with Colin Walshe getting the goal.
However, Longford made a great start to the second half, shooting quick points from Diarmuid Masterson and Brian Kavanagh.
And they edged in front going into the closing stages after Robbie Smyth fired home their second goal to end any Monaghan hopes of a comeback.
"We're not going to make excuses," said Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke about having to play three games in 14 days.
"We didn't feel that would be a massive factor although we tried to freshen the team up a bit at the start because we knew two tough games would take a toll on the boys."
Scorers - Longford: R Smyth 1-3 (0-2f); D Masterson, J McGivney & B Kavanagh (0-1f, 0-1 s-l) 0-3 each; M Quinn 1-0; L Connerton 0-1.
Monaghan: C McCarthy & C McManus (0-3f) 0-4 each; C Walshe 1-0; J McCarron 0-2; R Beggan (0-1f), R McAnespie & S Carey 0-1 each.
Longford - P Collum 6; C Farrelly 6, P McGee 5, B Gilleran 7; D McElligott 6, M Quinn 7, B McKeon 7; M Brady 7, D Gallagher 7; D Masterson 8,
D Brady 7, J McGivney 8; R Smyth 8, B Kavanagh 7, L Connerton 8. Subs: B O'Farrell 6 for McGee (24), D Reynolds 7 for McElligott (31, black card), M Hughes 6 for M Brady (h-t), R Connor 6 for McKeon (60, black card), B Farrell for 6 Gallagher (65), S Hannon 5 for Smyth (72).
Monaghan: R Beggan 5; C Walshe 7, D Wylie 6, C Boyle 5; K O'Connell 6, V Corey 6, F Kelly 5; N McAdam 5, D Hughes 7; R McAnespie 6, D Malone 6, T Kerr 5; J McCarron 7, C McManus 6, C McCarthy 8. Subs: O Duffy 5 for Malone (h-t), S Carey 6 for O'Connell (h-t), D Mone 7 for Kerr (50), K Hughes 6 for McCarron (56), S Gollogly 6 for Duffy (63).
Referee: C Branagan (Down).