Longford complete amazing comeback to deny Offaly triumph
FIGURE that one out.
Three weeks ago, Longford were hammered by 13 points in Croke Park by an Offaly team displaying a just a touch of their olden-days, native swagger.
Tonight in O’Connor Park in their Leinster SFC opener, they trailed by seven points in the 46th minute, allowed Offaly to kick 10 unanswered points.
Yet by the death, Jack Sheedy’s team were victors, accelerating away and only the full-time whistle prevented their 0-16 to 0-13 win becoming more convincing.
Amazingly, they kicked 11 of the last 12 points to win football’s great booby prize - a Leinster quarter-final with Dublin in Croke Park on May 31st.
A third of their team Leinster SFC debutants, Longford began much the better and made their 13-point defeat to Offaly in Croke Park in the Division 4 League final just three weeks back look just a little daft.
Brian Kavanagh bought a free for the first score of the game. Colletively, their use of the ball was measured and penetrative. And by the 24th minute, they led by 0-5 to 0-2.
Then, for no reason immediately apparent - but partly propelled by a gusting wind - Offaly belatedly left the blocks. Indeed, they adopted something of a swagger.
Niall McNamee found his sweet spot and Nigel Dunne popped up in various positions of menace and in an eight minute spell, they kicked seven points, undisturbed by either reply or wide.
At best, some of the tackling from both sides could be described as enthusiastic. At worst, badly executed.
Either way, there was a distinctly rustic feel about the physical exchanges.
Within a six minute period between the 20th and 26th minutes, all of Longford’s half-forward line were booked.
In total, six frees were brought forward to more advantageous kicking positions by referee, Pádraig O’Sullivan, for dissent.
Easily though, the daftest tackle of the half came from Offaly corner-back, Daithí Brady just on the bell of half-time.
A short-dropping shot from Ronan McEntire hopped close-ish to the Offaly goal and when Mickey Quinn broke it to down to Shane Doyle, Brady’s reaction was both instinctive and careless - penalty.
Quinn’s kick was low and hard but just not quite precise enough to beat Alan Mulhall and at the blast of the half-time whistle, Offaly’s dander was most decidedly up, leading as they did by 0-9 to 0-5.
They kicked the first three of the second half too, a run of 10 unanswered but Longford’s response was authoritative.
Collectively, Sheedy’s subs kicked five points.
Kavanagh launched to boomers and Dessie Reynolds rifled a straight-footed shot off the crossbar in the 66th minute to finally put Longford ahead.
Kavanagh and McNerney widened the gap to three but still, there was time for drama.
Desperately, Offaly looped a free in towards the Longford goal and Conor McNamee rose to fist downwards but Paddy Colum’s save prevented the goal that would have sent us to a replay and instead, helped drag his team back towards Croke Park in two week’s time.
SCORERS - Longford: B Kavanagh 0-5 (4f), C Smyth, R McNerney (1f), D Reynolds 0-2 each, D Masterson, B McKeon (f), R McEntire, R Connor, P Foy 0-1 each. Offaly: W Mulhall 0-4 (4f), N Dunne 0-3, N McNamee, B Allen (1f) 0-2 each, J O’Connor, G Guilfoyle (f) 0-1 each..
LONGFORD: P Collum; D Brady, B O’Farrell, C Farrelly; C Smyth, B Gilleran, D Masterson; K Diffley, M Quinn; S Doyle, F McGee, R McEntire; B McKeon, B Kavanagh, R Connor. Subs: D Reynolds for McGee (35 inj), R McInerney for Doyle (h-t), P Foy for Connor (54), L Connerton for McKeon (60).
OFFALY: A Mulhall; B Darby, P McConway, D Brady; N Darby, J Moloney, J O’Connor; G Guilfoyle, N Smith; E Carroll, W Mulhall, A Sullivan; B Allen, N McNamee, N Dunne. Subs: C McNamee for Smith (22 black card), J Ledwith for McConway (54 inj), P Cunningham for Allen (58), C Donohue for Carroll (68), N Bracken for Dunne (68).
REF: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).