Longford 1-10 Laois 0-12
Longford produced an excellent second-half comeback, scoring seven points in succession to shock Laois in the Leinster championship at Pearse Park this afternoon.
Michael Quinn and Paul Barden were outstanding but Laois will rue a complete loss of composure that means they must now look to the Qualifiers.
Barden’s 40th minute goal was the spark for Glenn Ryan’s charges, who now play Wexford.
Laois were utterly dominant in the opening half, particularly in the middle third where Brendan Quigley, John O’Loughlin and Kevin Meaney were prominent.
After a cagey opening, they gradually exerted control on the scoreboard, with points from Colm Begley, Ross Munnelly, Darren Strong and debutant Gary Walsh before Barden got Longford off the mark in the 16th minute.
The centre-forward might have had a goal earlier, but his shot after a trademark run was just wide of the far post.
Sean McCormack landed a free but was starved of possession, while Brian Kavanagh – who was showing very well, also on the mark.
These scores were just about keeping Longford in touch though as Walsh added a brace of points, Strong sent over a wonderful score, and Conor Boyle and Kevin Meaney also raised white flags.
That gave Laois a 0-9 to 0-3 interval lead and it should have been more as they kicked eight wides.
Glenn Ryan made two half-time substitutions and his side came out with much more conviction.
Barden had a shot saved by Eoin Culliton soon after the restart but the Laois goalkeeper could do nothing to deny the Clonguish star from palming to the net, after Sean McCormack had provided a pinpoint pass in the 39th minute.
Laois responded well with pointed frees from Munnelly and Walsh, while Meaney almost scored a goal but was denied by Damien Sheridan.
From this juncture on, Longford gradually reeled their opponents in. David Barden started the run of seven points in the 48th minute and his brother followed up.
McCormack added a brace, including one from a brilliantly-judged kick-pass by Quinn. The centre-back levelled matters just short of the hour with a wonderful outside-of-the-boot point from 45m and after Francis McGee had a shot blocked, McCormack swooped to put Longford in front for the first time.
Quinn found Kavanagh, who worked hard throughout, and the full-forward lofted over from a narrow angle to put two between the sides.
Meaney did palm the ball into the Longford net in injury time but Michael Duffy adjudged the Laois captain to have been in the square, and with the delivery coming from a free kick, ruled the score out.
There was still time for Sheridan to save from Padraig Clancy and Colm Kelly to point a free but Longford held out for a famous victory.
Scorers – Longford: P Barden 1-2; S McCormack 0-4(2fs); B Kavanagh 0-2; D Barden, M Quinn 0-1 each
Laois: G Walsh 0-4(2fs); R Munnelly (1f), D Strong 0-2 each; C Boyle, K Meaney, C Begley, C Kelly(f) 0-1 each
Longford: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; CP Smith, M Quinn, S Mulligan; B McElvanney, J Keegan; D Barden, P Barden, N Mulligan; D McElligott, B Kavanagh, S McCormack. Subs: P Kelly for Keegan (ht); P McCormack for N Mulligan (ht); F McGee for McElligott (50); K Diffley for D Barden (68); N Farrell for McElvanney (70+2)
Laois: E Culliton; C Healy, K Lillis, P O’Leary; D Strong, S Julian, C Boyle; J O’Loughlin, B Quigley; K Meaney, B Sheehan, C Begley; R Munnelly, P Clancy, G Walsh
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo)