PAUL BARDEN and Brian Kavanagh produced outstanding performances as Longford clinched promotion with a comprehensive victory over Carlow at a sun-kissed Pearse Park yesterday.
Carlow, who were also in the hunt for a promotion spot, had their prospects completely squashed in the latter stages of the first half after a potent Longford gradually stamped their authority on proceedings.
Longford captain Barden found the back of the Carlow net in the fourth minute after brother David provided the pass for a simple tap-in, while further points from John O'Shea and Kavanagh sent the small support wild.
Carlow responded with scores coming from corner-forwards Daniel St Ledger and JJ Smith.
After the break, Smith gave Carlow hope when he netted past Damien Sheridan, but moments later Smith was sent off for a foul on corner-back Dermot Brady. From there on Longford easily saw out the game to earn a league final date with Roscommon.
Man of the Match: P Barden (Longford)
Scorers -- Longford: S McCormack 0-7(4f) P Barden 1-4, B Kavanagh 0-4, P Dowd 0-2, D McElligott, N Mulligan, N Farrell, J O'Shea 0-1 each. Carlow: D St Ledger 0-5 (3f), JJ Smith 1-1, D Foley 0-2, P Cashin, T Walsh, C Mullins, S Gannon 0-1 each.
Longford -- D Sheridan 7; D Brady 7, B Gilleran7 , D Reilly 7; S Mulligan 6, D Masterson 7, N Farrell 8; M Brady 6, J O'Shea 7; D Barden 8, P Dowd 8, P Barden 9; D McElligott 8, B Kavanagh 8 , S McCormack 8. Subs: D Barden (inj) for N Mulligan (38), K Diffley for J O'Shea (58), P Foy for N Farrell (63), JJ Matthews for B Kavanagh (63), F McGee for P Dowd (68).
Carlow -- T O'Reilly 7; B Kavanagh, T Bolger 6, P McElligott 6; K Nolan 6, A Murphy 6, P Cashin 7; D Foley 7, T Walsh 6; B Murphy 6, P Hickey 6, E Finnegan 6; D St Ledger 7, C Mullins 6, JJ Smith 6. Subs: S Gannon for B Murphy (28), S Redmond for A Murphy (ht), H Gahan for P Hickey (48), P Murphy for P Cashin (55), E Ruth for Ed Finnegan (60).
Ref -- D O'Mahoney (Tipperary).