Longford 0-16 Offaly 0-13
Longford’s survival instincts served them well as they came from seven points adrift to oust Offaly in a keenly contested Leinster SFC clash at O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
The victory sets up an intriguing clash for Jack Sheedy against his native Dublin at Croke Park on May 31.
And while they will head into that double-header encounter — the Dubs will take on Galway in a Leinster SHC quarter-final before it — as rank outsiders, Longford will take a lot of encouragement from turning over their neighbours in their own backyard.
The defeat is a huge blow to Pat Flanagan in his first championship game in charge of his native county who went into this clash with a win in the Leinster SFC since 2007.
That didn’t looked like changing when Longford, despite playing against the wind, opened up a 0-4 to 0-2 lead with Brian Kavanagh, Ronan McEntire and Barry McKeon all prominent.
Offaly eventually got moving and their enjoyed their best spell of the match when they struck for six points in as many minutes.
Niall McNamee was to the fore in the Offaly rally and Willie Mulhall was also key to it as Flanagan’s men opened up a 0-9 to 0-5 interval lead.
But they had to survive a scare just before the break when Longford were awarded a penalty but goalkeeper Alan Mulhall did well to deny Michael Quinn.
Bernard Allen landed two good points for Offaly after the restart and they looked set for a Croke Park date when Nigel Dunne put them seven ahead.
But Longford, beaten in the Division 4 league final by Offaly a few weeks ago, were far from a beaten docket and they clawed their way back into the match with Barry McKeon leading the way before Kavanagh kicked two in a row to reduce the margin to four points.
Dessie Reynolds, a minor last year and one of several Longford substitutes to impress, cut the deficit to a goal with an excellent point from the right after 54 minutes and they never looked back from there.
They hit the front in the closing stages as Kavanagh continued to show great form and Reynolds also added a second to put them a goal to the good.
Offaly, in fairness, rallied and the home support thought they were saved when Conor McNamee got his first to a delivery but Longford goalkeeper Paddy Collum saved the day.
Scores and teams:
Longford: B Kavanagh (0-5, 3f), C P Smyth (0-2), D Reynolds (0-2), R McNerney (0-2, 1f), B McKeon (0-2, 1f), R McEntire (0-1), D Masterson (0-1), P Foy (0-1).
Offaly: W Mulhall (0-4f), N Dunne (0-3), B Allen (0-2, 1f), N McNamee (0-2), , J O'Connor (0-1); G Guilfoyle (0-1f).
Longford: P Collum; D Brady, B O'Farrell, C Farrelly; C P Smyth, B Gilleran, D Masterson (0-1); M Quinn, K Diffley; S Doyle, F McGee, R McEntire; B McKeon, B Kavanagh, R Connor.
Subs: D Reynolds for McGee (34), R McNerney for Doyle (35), 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, N McNamee, A Sullivan; W Mulhall, N Dunne, B Allen.
Subs: C McNamee for Smith (22), J Ledwith for McConway (54), P Cunningham for Allen (58), C O’Donoghue for Carroll (68), N Bracken for Dunne (68).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).