Sunday 21 July 2019

Shane McEntee sees red as Longford battle to secure brilliant win over Meath

Longford 0-16 Meath 0-14

Robbie Smyth, left, and Rian Brady of Longford celebrate
Robbie Smyth, left, and Rian Brady of Longford celebrate

Dermot Crowe

Longford celebrated a first Leinster championship win over Meath since 1982 at Pearse Park, the game turning after Shane McEntee's red card dismissal in the 56th minute.

It proved a pivotal time in the match as moments before Robbie Smyth hit Longford's 14th point to open a four-point lead, with Meath angered that Graham Reilly did not earn a free when he looked to have been fouled in an attack at the other end.

As the home crowd celebrated Smyth's score the ref was drawn to an off the ball incident which led to McEntee, son of the Meath manager Andy, receiving his marching orders. When Conor Berry's long range shot hopped over the bar soon afterwards it gave Longford a five-point advantage entering the final ten minutes.

But Meath, who have a tradition of fighting to the death, then reeled off four scores to set up a grandstand finish.  One of those points could have been a goal but a wonderful one-handed save by Paddy Collum denied Meath a goal from Eamon Wallace that might have led to a different result. They deserved their store of good fortune though with James McGivney outstanding scoring four points from play. 

The sides went in at half time deadlocked at seven points each. Longford played with the aid of a slight breeze and immediately put Michael Quinn on Reilly, the Meath man managing to find enough space to kick two points, roaming out the field despite starting at full forward.

Longford landed some excellent scores, with double strikes from McGivney, Rian Brady and Darren Gallagher but they were also guilty of some poor shot selections and kicked six wides, as well as dropping a number of efforts short. One of McGivney's points, which put the home team 0-3 to 0-2 in front in the 10th minute, was a pile driver that went narrowly over the cross bar with goal in his mind.

Two minutes later Ronan McEntire was put through by Robbie Smyth's visionary pass but Meath goalkeeper Andrew Colgan, on his debut, managed to force a dispossession with his goal looking under serious threat. Meath grew into the match but the first half was evenly contested throughout with never more than a point separating the teams. They were level seven times.

Meath looked dangerous on the break, with newcomer Paddy Kennelly kicking two fine scores and fellow debutante Ben Brennan landing another spectacular effort and showing some nice touches in general play. They had a few goal chances but failed to take any of them. After Donal Lenihan's free gave them the lead for the first time, they could have reinforced the advantage in the 20th minute with Reilly causing havoc and the ball breaking to Donal Keogan whose shot for goal dripped outside the post.

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Three minutes later after some slick passing at close range Meath worked an opening for Cillian O'Sullivan but he snatched at the goal chance and put it wide to the right of Collum's goal. Nearing half time Brennan placed O'Sullivan who picked up possession close to the Longford goal and the sirens sounded, O'Sullivan's losing control of the ball under frantic pressure to the home team's relief.

In the second half Kennelly and Brennan faded, both taken off, and Longford grew in confidence, sensing a famous victory within their grasp. It compensated for the disappointment of missing out narrowly on promotion from Division 2 of the National League on the last day.

Longford were weakened by injuries but still prevailed. Barry McKeon couldn't play due to a hamstring injury and Sean McCormack's recovery wasn't deemed sufficient to see him start, although he was listed among the subs and came on near the end, scoring the relieving last point in injury time which sealed a famous win and a place in the semi finals for the first time in 30 years.

Scorers: Longford - J McGivney 0-4; D Gallagher 0-3; R Brady 0-2; P Collum (45), D Reynolds, D McGivney (f), D Mimnagh, R Smyth, S McCormack, C Berry 0-1. Meath - G Reilly 0-3; P Kennelly 0-2; D Lenihan 0-2 (both fs), B Brennan, B Menton, D Keogan, M Burke, S Curran, E Wallace, J Wallace 0-1.

Longford: P Collum; P McCormack, M Quinn, P Fox; D McElligott, D Masterson, D Mimnagh; R McEntire, C Berry; D Reynolds, D Gallagher, D McGivney; R Smyth, J McGivney, R Brady.

Subs: S McCormack for Smyth (inj 66 mins); L Connerton for Brady & P Foy for D McGivney (both 72); B Gilleran for Mimnagh (74).

Meath: A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, S Curran; J McEntee, D Keogan, S McEntee; B Menton, P Kennelly; C O'Sullivan, B Brennan, M Burke; B McMahon, G Reilly, D Lenihan.

Subs: D O'Neill for Kennelly (46 mins); J Wallace for Brennan (54); E Wallace for O'Sullivan (58); T O'Reilly for McMahon (68).

Referee: S Hurdson (Tyrone):

Attendance: 5,591.

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