Longford put Down out of their misery
Longford 2-24 Down 3-17
Longford's bravehearts shocked Down with a thrilling extra-time win in the qualifiers. Playing two divisions below the Mourne men in the league, the Midlanders displayed heart and courage to bring the home side's miserable season to a sad end.
Substitutes Seamus Hannon and Mark Hughes scored the all-important goals in added time, and they held on for a deserved success, with midfielder Michael Quinn playing a starring role.
Down spirits raised by some fine high fetching by Ryan Mallon quickly dissolved as Longford established control around midfield through Michael Brady and the excellent Quinn.
By the end of the opening quarter, the Leinster men led by 0-6 to 0-3, pressurising the home defence with quick movement of the ball and clinical finishing from Robbie Smyth, Barry McKeon and Brian Kavanagh.
Kavanagh's third score had just eased the visitors into a 0-7 to 0-3 lead when Conor Maginn revived Mourne hopes with a goal, fired in from close range after Barry O'Hagan had done the spadework.
But Longford seized back the initiative immediately, hitting four on the spin, the best of them from James McGivney, who sliced over a gem.
Down, who went 17 minutes without a score until Donal O'Hare converted his second free, trailed by 0-11 to 1-4 at the break. But O'Hare turned the game in his side's favour with two goals in the opening eight minutes of the second half. First, he finished from another O'Hagan assist after just 30 seconds, before sliding a low shot past Paddy Collum to finish a well worked move involving Mark Poland, Maginn and Kevin McKernan.
Longford saw a five-point lead turned into a three-point deficit in double quick time, but they responded with scores from Dessie Reynolds, Quinn, Kavanagh and McGivney. Belief and perseverance paid off as they went level through Diarmuid Masterson, before Kavanagh shot them back in front with five minutes to play. Quinn thought he had won it in stoppage time, but O'Hare levelled from a free at 3-12 to 0-21, Brady dismissed on a second booking in the process.
Hannon drilled home a 79th-minute goal to give the Leinster side a 1-23 to 3-16 lead at the turnaround and another sub, Hughes, netted a second from close range in the 86th minute.
Scorers - Longford: B Kavanagh 0-6 (5f), R Smyth (1f), M Quinn 0-4 each, S Hannon 1-1, M Hughes 1-0, J McGivney, D Masterson 0-3 each, B McKeon 0-2, D Reynolds 0-1; Down: D O'Hare 2-10 (0-9f), C Maginn 1-1, R Mallon 0-4, S Dornan B O'Hagan, M Poland 0-1 each.
Longford: P Collum; C Farrelly, B Gilleran, B O'Farrell; D McElligott, D Brady, D Masterson; M Brady, M Quinn; D Reynolds, D Gallagher, J McGivney; B McKeon, R Smyth, B Kavanagh. Subs: P McGee for Gilleran (46), L Connerton for Gallagher (55), S Hannon for McKeon, B Farrell for Reynolds (67), Gallagher (71), M Hughes for Givney (80, BC), R Connor for Smyth (86), D McGivney for Quinn (89).
Down: M Reid; C McGovern, G McGovern, D O'Hagan; D McKibbin, A Carr, D O'Hanlon; P Turley, K McKernan; R Mallon, M Poland, J Murphy; C Maginn, D O'Hare, B O'Hagan. Subs: G Collins for McKibbin (42), M McKay for McKernan (52), D Turley for Murphy (54), S Dornan for O'Hagan (62), H Brown for McKay (77, BC), McKernan for Maginn (84), B McArdle for Carr (89).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).
Sunday Indo Sport