Sunday 17 December 2017

Smyth forges another upset for qualifier kings Longford

Longford 2-15 Louth 1-10

Liam Connerton of Longford in action against Louth’s James Stewart in yesterday’s qualifier game in Drogheda. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Connerton of Longford in action against Louth’s James Stewart in yesterday’s qualifier game in Drogheda. Photo: Sportsfile

John Brennan

Some teams just love the All-Ireland football qualifiers - and Longford are certainly one of them. Kerry, Mayo, Derry and Monaghan are just four counties who have had uncomfortable days in the company of the Blue and Gold at the back door.

And now you can add Louth to that number after this comprehensive win over the home side at the Drogheda Gaelic Grounds.

Daniel Mimnagh of Longford in action against Patrick Reilly of Louth during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A match between Louth and Longford at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda, Co Louth. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel Mimnagh of Longford in action against Patrick Reilly of Louth during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A match between Louth and Longford at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda, Co Louth. Photo: Sportsfile

It was a bad day all round for Louth as they finished with 12 men as a flurry of red cards were shown in injury-time to make four dismissals in the game in all.

Yet it wasn't a dirty match - just a deeply frustrating one for Louth as a season that promised so much shuddered to a close.

Glorious sunshine, but a very poor crowd, greeted the teams. Perhaps the nearby beaches at Baltray and Bettystown were crammed with people, but the Gaelic Grounds certainly were not as these two teams tried to get their summer back on track.

Yet the cruel reality was that one of them would be finished for the year at the end of this and that team's next national fixture will be in the first week of February 2018.

Referee Noel Mooney shows a red card to Patrick Reilly of Louth during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A match between Louth and Longford at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda, Co Louth. Photo: Sportsfile
Referee Noel Mooney shows a red card to Patrick Reilly of Louth during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A match between Louth and Longford at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda, Co Louth. Photo: Sportsfile

Longford won the toss and chose to play with a decent breeze at their backs.

It wasn't the sort of howling gale that disfigured last weekend's GAA programme, but it was still worth a couple of points and the visitors would need to be ahead at the break.

They were four up and, in truth, it might have been more had Longford not kicked some wides from positions where they really ought to have scored.

Robbie Smyth was superb with five points scored in the 35 minutes and Longford had too much pace for the home team.

They had worked their openings well, showing patience in the face of Louth's defensive formation.

Louth had work to do, but they would have taken confidence from the midfield area where James Califf was the best player. Now he would get his chance to influence the match with the elements at his back.

But a Liam Connerton penalty, awarded because Anthony Williams handled the ball on the ground in the small square, put Louth on the back foot straight away. And they never recovered from there.

Eoin O'Connor gave them a lifeline with a goal at the end of a well-worked move.

But it was notable that Louth had used five subs by the 51st minute in an attempt to turn the tide. In the heat of the evening, that looked likely to hurt the men in red.

They certainly had no legs for the comeback after Barry McKeon got the second Longford goal just seven minutes from the end.

By then both teams were down to 14 men with the best player on the pitch, Smyth, and Louth sub Tommy Durnin both having departed the action on second yellow cards. In the closing moments, Patrick Reilly joined Durnin on the bench after a second yellow, and Ryan Burns was sent off on a straight red. Longford played out time easily and will look forward to the next round.

No-one will look forward to playing them.

Scorers - Longford: R Smyth 0-7; L Connerton 1-1; B McKeon 1-0; D McGivney 0-2; M Quinn, L Moran, B Gilleran, J Keegan, D Reynolds 0-1 each. Louth: E O'Connor 1-0; J Califf 0-3; R Burns, J Bingham 0-2 each; T Durnin, G McSorley, J McEneaney 0-1 each.

Louth: C Lynch; P Rath, J Bingham, K Murphy; J Stewart, D McMahon, A Williams; J Califf, A McDonnell; R Moore, P Smith, B Duffy; P Reilly, E O'Connor, J McEneaney. Subs: D Byrne for Stewart (28 mins); A Reid for Murphy (43); T Durnin for Smith and R Burns for Moore (both 45); G McSorley for McEneaney (51); D Crilly for Califf (60).

Longford: P Collum; D Brady, P McCormack, B Gilleran; D McElligott, M Quinn, D Reynolds; J Keegan, D McGivney; D Masterson, J McGivney, D Mimnagh; R Smyth, L Connerton, B McKeon. Subs: A Farrell for Gilleran (61); L Moran for J McGivney (65); C Berry for D McGivney (66).

Referee: N Mooney (Cavan).

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