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Dunne points the way as Offaly hold off Longford comeback

Nigel Dunne's five points helped an experimental Offaly outfit get the better of Longford in a lacklustre encounter at Pearse Park yesterday.

Tom Cribbin's men were three points up at half-time, having played with the breeze, but Longford quickly used the wind advantage to full effect on the resumption and a Noel Farrell goal helped them draw level with 20 minutes remaining.

As the game entered the final quarter, both sides were reduced to 14 men -- Longford's Paul Kelly was red-carded when his arm caught the head of Karol Slattery, and Offaly's Niall Smith was sent off for punching Donal McElligott.

Offaly, though, were less affected and took the lead. Longford did have a chance to force the game into extra-time, when Bernard McElvaney pushed forward in a last-ditch attack, but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Slattery denied him with a terrific block.

The hosts had started intently and had a golden opportunity to bag an early goal, but full-forward Sean McCormack drilled a shot straight at Offaly 'keeper Eoin Brennan.

The visitors took the lead for the first time in the 21st minute, when a sweeping move ended with a fine goal from Brian Kelly.

Despite the introduction of Slattery and Ciaran McManus, Offaly struggled after the break and Longford came back into contention, but Dunne's scores proved decisive.

Scorers -- Offaly: N Dunne 0-5 (1f), B Kelly 1-0, S Lonergan, S Ryam, N A Graham, C McManus 0-1 each. Longford: N Farrell 1-0, D McElligorr 0-3 (2f), S McCormack 0-2, B McElvaney, D Barden 0-1 each.

Offaly -- E Brennan; M Cocoman, B Kehoe, J Keane; S Lonergan, C Kelly,S Ryan; N Smith, P Bracken; NA Graham, J Coughlan, B Kelly; W Mulhall, W Crampton, N Dunne. Subs: S Pender for Kehoe (21), K Slattery for Mulhall (h-t), C McManus for WCrampton (h-t), R Dalton for Coughlan (69).

Longford -- J McKenna; T Gallagher, B Gilleran, D Brady; S Mulligan, E Williams, G Farrell; J O'Shea, B McElvaney; P Kelly, D McElligott, D Barden; N Farrell, S McCormack, W Crawford. Subs: P Foy for Mulligan (59), D Reilly for Brady (59).

Ref -- P Finnegan (Louth).

Irish Independent