Monday 22 January 2018

Sheedy eyes crack at the Dubs as home side 'crumble'

Longford 0-16 Offaly 0-13

Longford manager Jack Sheedy celebrates with kit man Shane Donoghue after their victory against Offaly RAY McMANUS/SPORTSFILE
Longford manager Jack Sheedy celebrates with kit man Shane Donoghue after their victory against Offaly RAY McMANUS/SPORTSFILE

Declan Rooney

Offaly manager Pat Flanagan thinks his players crumbled under the pressure of the big occasion as they fell to their eighth consecutive Leinster championship defeat.

The Faithful County had put 4-16 on Longford on their way to the Division 4 league title in April but despite leading by seven points in the second-half at O'Connor Park they couldn't stave off this comeback.

They now face another journey through the qualifiers with Longford heading to Croke Park where Jack Sheedy's team face Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final on May 31.

But Offaly native Flanagan said he would have loved a crack at the Dubs and was disappointed his players didn't front up as they failed to break their Leinster hoodoo again.

"We thought we were progressing after the league final performance we felt that we were on the right road," said Flanagan.

"But it proved that we were mentally still that bit weak because when the pressure came on today we crumbled to be totally honest.

"They had a gameplan, they came and they intimidated us in the first 15 or 20 minutes and we found it very hard to get used to that.

"When our backs were to the wall we started going back playing ball across the field and playing it back behind us instead of coming forward.

"We started making wrong decisions, it is all a learning phase and we need to learn very quickly. As I said to the boys the 2016 Leinster championship starts today," he said.

It's now 2007 since Offaly last won a game in their province but it could have been so different had they stemmed the flow of Longford scoring in the latter stages.

Jack Sheedy's men out-scored Offaly 0-11 to 0-1 over the final 24 minutes and that was the difference in the end as Paddy Collum's last ditch save from Conor McNamee ensured Longford took the spoils.

That goal would have brought about extra-time and in truth Offaly just about deserved it, but they will look back on this game as another opportunity lost.

They trailed 0-3 to 0-0 12 minutes in after Longford surprised them with their physicality in the opening quarter.

However once Offaly came to terms with that they took control with Joseph O'Connor, Johnny Moloney and Niall Darby leading the way.

Offaly went a ten-point scoring streak but the deployment of Barry Gilleran as a man-marker on the influential Niall McNamee worked wonders for Longford.

Yet, despite keeping Offaly's star man under wraps, the Faithful county still managed to lead by seven points with 24 minutes remaining.

That lead should have been trimmed significantly before half-time, but Longford's Michael Quinn's saw his penalty saved after Daithi Brady had felled Shane Doyle.

Seven points in a row from Offaly brought them into half-time and they added another three tot hat tally on the resumption, but a Barry McKeon free stalled Offaly's scoring spree and Longford powered home from here.

The challenge of Dublin will pose a significant test to Longford in a fortnight, but Sheedy thinks this win will spur his side significantly.

"It was a fantastic comeback, the lads worked very hard. We spoke in the three weeks since the league final that no matter what the result was when we came off the pitch, that we'd leave everything out there, and we did.

"Nobody in the country gives us a chance in hell really to beat Dublin. It's daunting, there's no two ways about it, but we'll sit down tonight and tomorrow and think about it, and see where we're at," said Sheedy.

"Enthusiasm and a desire to work hard masks an awful lot of things. If we can bring in what we brought in to the game today, and tidy up some of the areas that we were poor in, we'll go Croke Park and we'll give a really good account of ourselves and that's all you can ask for."

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 BC), J Ledwith for McConway (54), P Cunningham for Allen (58), C Donohue for Carroll (68), N Bracken for Dunne (68).

REF - P O'Sullivan (Kerry).

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