Saturday 20 January 2018

Kavanagh hits the mark to see Longford home

Longford 2-12 Clare 1-12

Longford manager Jack Sheedy celebrates his side’s victory with Rory Connor
Longford manager Jack Sheedy celebrates his side’s victory with Rory Connor

Declan Rooney

Brian Kavanagh kicked the last three points of the game in Ennis as Longford surged to their second qualifier win of the season.

Five weeks on from their 27-point drubbing at the hands of Dublin, Longford have steadied their summer; they now face a Round 3A qualifier next weekend and are one step away from a spot in the last 12.

After their disappointing day in Croke Park, Longford saw off Carlow, and yesterday evening their young team came through in style at Cusack Park against a spirited Clare side.

The home side had their own woes to forget after their 12-point loss to Cork in the Munster semi-final, but manager Colm Collins appeared to have a stronger hand, even without his son Podge.

David Tubridy - the Banner's top scorer of all time - came back into the team, and Shane McGrath returned to the squad, but Cathal McInerney, Shane Brennan and Martin O'Leary missed out again because of injury.

The Banner men took an early lead when Gary Brennan drilled over a 40-metre free following a foul on his midfield partner Cathal O'Connor.

Kavanagh had the easy task of kicking Longford's first point from a free soon after, but at the other end a sweet flick from Tubridy sent Keelin Sexton clear, and after his way was blocked, Tubridy landed a brilliant score to make it 0-2 to 0-1.

With Dessie Reynolds roaming out the field, there was plenty of room for Kavanagh and Liam Connerton to run into. A pin-point direct pass from Michael Quinn into Connerton forced Ciaran Russell into the concession of a penalty, which Kavanagh drilled high into the roof of the net.

Longford looked buoyant at that stage and points from Connerton and Quinn underlined their dominance, but Collins's side rallied well, as stirring forays out of defence from Kevin Harnett and Martin McMahon put the Banner on the front foot.

Clare had pulled within two points of their visitors ten minutes before the interval, and a 26th-minute goal from wing-back Dean Ryan gave them a one-point lead, which they carried into the break.

The loss of skipper Dermot Brady just before throw-in was a significant blow for Longford, but Quinn proved a more than adequate replacement and led his team from the front. He was a significant presence in attack, but also tracked the marauding runs of Gary Brennan into Longford territory.

A loose handpass out of defence by Russell was punished by a tap-over score from Rory Connor in the 39th minute, but worse was to come for the home side a minute later. Again Connor was involved as he sent Reynolds in on goal and while he undercooked his shot for a point, it lobbed over Joe Hayes and nestled in the net.

That goal put Longford three points ahead, but three frees from Tubridy got Clare level by the 56th minute. Wing-back Diarmuid Masterson pushed Longford ahead a minute later with a brilliant point from distance, but he followed it up with a second yellow card moments later for a high tackle, which left his side a man down for the last 12 minutes.

Ryan punched a point for Clare to draw them level soon after Masterson's departure, but Kavanagh landed two frees, the lead score a monster effort from 50 metres, to see Longford home.

Scorers - Longford: B Kavanagh 1-5 (1-0 pen, 4f), D Reynolds 1-1, L Connerton, R Connor 0-2, M Quinn, D Masterson 0-1 each.

Clare: D Tubridy 0-5 (3f), D Ryan 1-1, E Cleary (1f), G Brennan (1f) 0-2 each, P Burke, S Collins 0-1 each.

Clare: J Hayes; C Russell, K Harnett, M McMahon; S Hickey, G Kelly, D Ryan; G Brennan, C O'Connor; Sean Collins, J Malone, K Sexton; E Cleary, P Burke, D Tubridy. Subs: S McGrath for O'Connor (19), E Coughlan for Cleary (54), Stephen Collins for Kelly (60).

Longford: P Collum; C Farrelly, B O'Farrell, F Battrim; CP Smyth, B Gilleran, D Masterson; K Diffley, M Quinn; P Gill, D Reynolds, R McEntire; R Connor, B Kavanagh, L Connerton Subs: S Doyle for Gill (48), R McNerney for McEntire (61), P Foy for Connor (66).

Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)

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