Wednesday 22 November 2017

Longford refuse to yield to Meath fightback in Leinster minor upset

Longford 1-9 Meath 0-8

Callum Kelly of St Patrick's Wicklow Town takes on Joe Dundon from Mount Leinster Rangers in Carlow in the Boys Division 3 Shield at the Féile Peil in Ballinakill, Wicklow ALF HARVEY/HR PHOTO
Callum Kelly of St Patrick's Wicklow Town takes on Joe Dundon from Mount Leinster Rangers in Carlow in the Boys Division 3 Shield at the Féile Peil in Ballinakill, Wicklow ALF HARVEY/HR PHOTO

Jonathan O'Meara

Longford minors upset the applecart at Pearse Park on Saturday afternoon to dump Meath out the championship and claim their place in this year's Leinster minor football final.

Over the last number of months, Longford have been going about business under the radar, but few people inside or outside the county would have predicted a favourable result for the Midlanders against a heavily fancied Meath outfit.

This result was no fluke. From the throw-in Longford displayed more grit and determination than their opponents, especially in the final quarter when the Royals threw everything they could at them to retrieve the situation.

But Longford withstood the relentless pressure with a real sense of maturity and on each occasion managed to break down the attack and catch Meath on the counter when the opportunity presented itself.

Meath too have to be praised for the part they played in this entertaining contest.

They looked dead and buried with ten minutes gone in the second half, until Thomas O'Reilly led by example and dragged his team back into contention.

While Meath registered the first two scores, Longford dominated for long periods of the first half with Peter Lynn, Cillian Lee and Jayson Matthews the main instigators.

Tony Delvin's side grabbed the lead in the eighth minute after Cathal McCabe's blistering shot took a wicked deflection that deceived the Meath 'keeper Jordan Brown.

Longford continued to build on this fortuitous goal and by the end of the first half they held a three-point cushion.

After the break, the hosts created a series of chances to extend their advantage including a missed goal opportunity from full-forward Conor Berry, but on each occasion they failed to find the target.

Meath on the other hand started to show promise and a fabulous long-range effort from O'Reilly prompted their purple patch.

Over the following ten minutes, Meath gradually got the upper hand and started to bridge the gap.

Centre-forward O'Reilly was their key target man and he finished the game with five of their eight-point tally.

Second-half substitute David McEntee also showed his eye for the posts when he cut inside his marker and put one point between the sides.

The visitors finally earned parity with five minutes remaining in the game.

This time Padraig McGowan added his name to the score sheet. With the pendulum firmly swinging in Meath's direction, lesser teams may have crumbled under the pressure of tradition as this juncture, but Longford refused to bow down and rallied the troops yet again.

Three inspiring points from Berry (two) and McCabe sent the home support into raptures, while a late Lynn point put the icing on the cake as they now prepare for a Leinster final date against Kildare on July 12.

SCORERS - Longford: C Berry 0-4 (1f '45), C McCabe 1-1, J Matthews 0-3, P Lynn 0-1 Meath: T O'Reilly 0-5 (3fs), R Ryan, P McGowan and D McEntee 0-1 each.

LONGFORD - M Hughes; M Cahill, R Sheahan, C Lee; C Brady, C Farrell, K Sorohan; E Farrell, J Heaney; J Matthews, P Hanley, C McCabe; D Doherty, C Berry, P Lynn. Subs: R Harkins for J Heaney (24), R Moffitt for C Farrell (49), R Brady for D Doherty (54), L Barry for R Sheahan (56), Ruairi Harkins for C Brady (59).

MEATH - J Browne; D Quinn, D O'Neill, C Harnan; T McGuinness, R Clarke, R Ryan; R Jones, C Nash; E O'Donnachada, T O'Reilly, A Carey; P McGowan, B Conlon, R Ryan. Subs: J McKeown for A Carey (22), C Halligan for B Conlon (h-t), D McEntee for R Ryan (37), S Walsh for R Ryan (45), E Kelly-Lynch for E O'Donnchadha (45).

Ref - B Crawley (Kildare)

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