Longford affair with Model far from over
LONGFORD 2-9 WEXFORD 0-15
"THEY are like bad ex-girlfriends -- you just can't shake them off."
That's how Wexford's Adrian Flynn summarised yesterday's stalemate which means the Model men and Longford will face off for a fourth time this season next Sunday.
Wexford should have dumped Glenn Ryan's side out yesterday despite flirting with defeat for the majority of the game. Despite being the more experienced side, they coughed up a winning position when Daithi Waters should have cleared his lines after racing for possession under the Cusack Stand as the clock ticked into the two minutes of injury-time.
He didn't as Bernard McElvaney won possession and Longford manufactured a free for Sean McCormack to convert that means the Model men haven't beaten the midlanders in three attempts across league and championship.
Neither manager quibbled with a draw afterwards as the sides were level on six occasions and only once did any lead extend beyond three points, when a Niall Mulligan score supplemented Paul Barden's second goal on 46 minutes.
Barden's first major contribution came from the penalty spot on the half-hour mark when Mulligan was felled by Waters after a intricate move involving Brian Kavanagh and McCormack and it helped the Midlanders into a 1-6 to 0-7 half-time lead.
Kavanagh kicked four excellent points in that half as Graeme Molloy and the Wexford full-back line struggled with Longford's clever use of the wind.
The Midlanders were packing their defence and attempted to break forward in waves and that tactic might have yielded another goal but for Anthony Masterson's sharp save at the feet of McCormack.
On his first return to Croke Park since last year's blunder in the Leinster final, the Wexford 'keeper would go on to deny David Barden in the second half in an excellent display of shot-stopping.
But it was Paul Barden who gave us another reminder of his sublime talents. His second goal was a mix of power and finesse as he held off the attentions of two Wexford defenders before lashing the ball to the roof of the net. Afterwards, Wexford boss Jason Ryan would describe the Clonguish man as a "nightmare".
Wexford had their own trump card. Wing-back Flynn kicked five points, two off his left, in an extraordinary display. A forward with his club Gusserane, he has the happy knack of arriving at the right time in a game where space was at a premium. His first score off the outside of his right boot will feature in the end-of-season highlights reel and Glenn Ryan admitted afterwards that he'll have to be given special attention in O'Connor Park next week.
"We did see it and we tried to address it but he kicked some outstanding points and you have to give the chap credit," Ryan conceded.
"I suppose that is the one thing you face going in against a team like Wexford. The corner-back scored the point at the end and the wing-back scored five -- that's the way they play, they are all-out attack. He is a good footballer, a converted forward, so it's not that we weren't aware of him before today."
Wexford outscored Longford by 0-6 to 0-2 in the final quarter and it looked as if their greater experience would see them through when corner-back Rob Tierney calmly clipped over a point on 69 minutes. That score put them in the lead for the first time since the 45th minute before Longford rallied to secure the draw they deserved.
"We were in the lead for what, 85pc of the game?" Glenn Ryan asked afterwards. "But I'm not deflated by any stretch. It's a funny one to look back on but we get another game in the championship which is great.
"It was a good football game, if both teams serve up something similar the next day it can only be good for the game. It's a long time since Longford got three games in the Leinster championship so we'll be positive about it.
"During the second half, I thought we were the last pass short of creating something. We were still winning plenty of possession. We were just hoping to create that extra pass and I think we left a few scores behind us. When chances come, you have to take them and hopefully we'll get those opportunities the next day."
SCORERS -- Longford: P Barden 2-0 (1-0 pen), B Kavanagh, S McCormack (3f) 0-4 each, N Mulligan 0-1 each.
Wexford: A Flynn 0-5, C Lyng (1f), B Brosnan (3f) 0-3 each, R Barry 0-2, R Tierney, E Bradley 0-1 each.
Longford -- D Sheridan 6; D Brady 7, B Gilleran 7, D Reilly 7; C Smyth 6, M Quinn 6, S Mulligan 6; B McElvaney 8, J Keegan 7; D Barden 7, P Barden 8, N Mulligan 8; D McElligott 6, B Kavanagh 8, S McCormack 6. Subs: P Kelly for P Barden (blood sub 50-55), P Kelly 7 for McElligott (57).
Wexford -- A Masterson 8; N Murphy 6, G Molloy 6, R Tierney 7; L Chin 6, B Malone 7, A Flynn 9; D Waters 6, R Quinlivan 6; C Carty 6, E Bradley 6, B Brosnan 7; S Roche 6, R Barry 7, C Lyng 7. Subs: PJ Banville 6 for Carty (40), P Byrne 6 for Roche (56), C Morris for Quinlivan (64), J Wadding for Flynn (71).
Ref -- M Collins (Cork)