Hughes leads early blitz as Longford hold off Model rally
TWO first-half goals from Mark Hughes helped Longford secure a place in the final following a nail-biting encounter at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Having dethroned All-Ireland champions Dublin in the quarter-finals, the midlanders continued their impressive run with a resounding display of skill and accuracy.
The midlanders got off to a blistering start and registered 2-3 in the opening 10 minutes. Hughes caused serious problems for Wexford throughout the first half and bagged the two excellent goals.
Wexford struggled to find any momentum but managed to breach Longford's rearguard in an encouraging five-minute spell that yielded them 1-3 without reply, which included a blistering strike from the boot of Robert Dempsey.
After the break, Wexford continued to bridge the deficit, with seven points in quick succession cutting the gap to two.
Longford, who were under huge pressure, were dealt a massive blow when goalkeeper Paddy Collum was stretchered off following a goalmouth incident. The midlanders nonetheless displayed immense resolve and weathered the storm following a brace of points from Robbie Smyth.
Wexford were handed a golden opportunity to force the game into extra-time but Alan Tobin's free failed to hit the target, much to the relief of the Longford supporters.
SCORERS – Longford: M Hughes 2-2 (1f), R Smyth 0-6 (3fs), J McGivney 0-2, P Thompson 0-1. Wexford: R Dempsey 1-1, C Butler 0-4 (3fs), Jack Kelly 0-3, A Tobin (2fs), C Kehoe 0-2 each, L Devereux 0-1.
LONGFORD – P Collum; R Keogh, C Barry O'Farrell, D Bennett; D Cooney, P McCormack, D Farrelly; P Thompson, D Gallagher; D Mimnagh, B McKeon, R Connor; R Smyth, M Hughes, J McGivney. Subs: C Lynn for Mimnagh (44), C Farrelly for D Farrelly (55), G Higgins for Collum (58), A Dalton for Connor (61).
WEXFORD – M O'Toole; D Foley, T Cullen, S Corrigan; J Kelly, C Dermot O'Keefe, A Cash; C Kehoe, L Chin; E Shiely, C Butler, J Tubritt; L Devereux, A Tobin, R Dempsey. Subs: G Carty for Shiely (h-t), M Cody for Tubritt (47).
REF – D Gough (Meath).