Two counties with their championship season on the line but only one that seemed in any way interested in extending their campaign as Longford cruised to victory over an insipid Carlow side at Netwatch Cullen Park this afternoon.
Both sides were heavily depleted coming into this game with Sean Murphy, Brendan Murphy and Paul Broderick not available for selection for Carlow while Barry McKeon’s injury against Kildare meant that he joined Rian Brady, Robbie Smyth and Darren Gallagher on the absentee list for Longford. Longford certainly missed that touch of class up front on an afternoon when they racked up 17 wides, but they didn’t lack heart or endeavour and were worth every bit of their double-figure winning margin.
In truth, aside from Longford’s honesty of effort, there wasn’t a lot else to recommend this game as a spectacle. Both sides were extremely cagey in the early stages, with lots of players dropping back and neither team showing a huge amount of urgency or desire to break forward at pace. Carlow played particularly deep, but found themselves chasing the game a little when Colm P Smyth set up James McGivney for the game’s opening goal in the 11th minute.
To the home side’s credit, they got back to within a point after two excellent scores from Diarmuid Walshe and Darragh Foley, but Longford’s inaccuracy was also a huge factor as the visiting side shot 9 first half wides.
It fell to wing backs Darren Quinn and Smyth to carry a significant amount of the scoring workload as they kicked three points between them, helping Longford to a 1-5 to 0-5 interval advantage.
The second half started in the same vein as the first, with nine scoreless minutes brought to an end when Gary Rogers became the first starting Longford forward to score from play in two hours of football. Diarmuid Walshe replied with a free for Carlow but by the time the home side scored again, Longford were out of sight. They took over at midfield, with David McGivney and John Keegan is fine form, while Michael Quinn also got on a lot of ball and Joseph Hagan made a decent contribution after coming onto the field, scoring one point and having another disallowed, somewhat inexplicably.
Carlow continued to sit deep and to try and break out of defence but they simply didn’t have the pace to do so effectively and by the time they added another Walshe free in the 59th minute, they were seven adrift and Longford’s name was as good as in the hat for tomorrow morning’s draw.
A rare patch of space finally opened up for the visitors in the last minute of normal time and it was the unlikely figure of corner back Patrick Fox who was the beneficiary, getting on the end of a three-on-one break to slot in the second goal from close range.
Scorers for Longford: James McGivney 1-1, David McGivney 0-3 frees, Darren Quinn 0-2, Colm P Smyth, Gary Rogers, Joseph Hagan, Daniel Mimnagh (free) & John Keegan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow: Diarmuid Walshe 0-4 (0-2 frees), Darragh Foley 0-2 (0-1 free), Jordan Morrissey 0-1.
Longford: Paddy Collum; Patrick Fox, Donal McElligott, Barry O’Farrell; Colm P Smyth, Pádraig McCormack, Darren Quinn; John Keegan, David McGivney; Gary Rogers, Andrew Farrell, Michael Quinn; Daniel Mimnagh, James McGivney, Darragh Doherty.
Subs: Joseph Hagan for Farrell (44), Shane Kenny for Doherty (53), Aidan McElligott for Rogers (57), Mark Hughes for D McElligott (62), Conor Farrell for D Quinn (66), Kevin Gilmore for Mimnagh (69).
Carlow: Robert Sansom; Liam Roberts, Shane Redmond, Conor Lawlor; Ciarán Moran, Daniel St. Ledger, Brendan Kavanagh; Jordan Morrissey, Eoghan Ruth; Diarmuid Walshe, Seán Gannon, Conor Doyle; Darragh O’Brien, Darragh Foley, John Murphy.
Subs: Danny Moran for Roberts (53), Josh Moore for Murphy (55), Hughie Gahan for Ruth (62), Jamie Clarke for O’Brien (65)
Referee: Ciarán Brannigan (Down).