Earls steals win for wasteful Wicklow

A LATE Paul Earls goal rescued victory for Wicklow in O’Moore Park yesterday, just when it looked like they had blown it.

Mick O’Dwyer’s men established a seven-point lead entering the final quarter, but 1-4 without reply from Longford brought the sides level with just five minutes left.

Seánie Furlong must have been feeling particularly guilty, as his point to establish that initial advantage was taken at the expense of a glaring goal opportunity, which would surely have sealed victory.

Instead, Pádraig Berry found the net at the other end after good work by the busy David Barden. Points from Ger Dennigan (free) and Paul Barden brought the sides level.

Wicklow showed spirit to pick themselves up, and Furlong was central to the response. First he slotted a free from a very acute angle to restore Wicklow’s lead, before setting up Earls’ match-clinching goal.

Longford hit back with points from Berry and a Dennigan free but in the end, time ran out on Glenn Ryan’s team.

Mick O’Dwyer conceded afterwards his side had made too many errors and admitted that the closing period had left him very nervous.

“I didn’t enjoy it there I can assure you in that last quarter of an hour. It was tough stuff!” he smiled.

“We were up seven points and sat on our lead as usual. But when they came level we showed character and came back well to get a great goal that made the difference.”

Longford started well and gained an early foothold in midfield. Dennigan finished well after good work from Francis McGee, who followed up with a free.

Tony Hannon’s unerring accuracy from the ground kept Wicklow in touch early on.

Indeed his punishment of any Longford indiscretions pushed his team into an unlikely lead, with three pointed frees and a converted 45 in response to a Dennigan free.

That 45 came about as a result of a splendid last-ditch block by Diarmuid Masterson to deny Rory Nolan, after Patrick McWalter’s mazy run attracted three defenders.

Dean Odlum slotted over on the turn for Wicklow’s first score from play on 22 minutes and somehow they were two points clear.

Longford responded with four points from McGee (two frees), Brian Kavanagh and David Barden to lead at the break, 0-7 to 0-6, Paul Earls replying for Wicklow.

The game was turned on its head after the resumption when Rory Nolan blasted to the Longford net, after Leighton Glynn’s shot had rebounded off the upright.

Wicklow dominated the following 25 minutes, full-forwards Odlum, Seanie Furlong and Earls combining as the winners pulled clear.

Longford didn’t get their first score of the second half until 60 minutes, McGee pointing. There was no indication this would start a dramatic comeback but five minutes later the sides were level.

The Furlong-Earls axis made sure Wicklow set up a quarter-final against Westmeath in Tullamore.

WICKLOW: M Travers; C Hyland, D Power, A Byrne; P McWalter, D O hAnnaidh, P Dalton; J Stafford, T Walsh; T Hannon 0-4(3fs, 1 45), L Glynn, R Nolan 1-1; D Odlum 0-1, S Furlong 0-4(2fs), P Earls 1-2.

Subs: B McGrath for Power (ht)

LONGFORD: D Sheridan; D Reilly, B Gilleran, P Foy; D Masterson, E Williams, S Mulligan; G Dennigan 0-4(3fs), K Smith 0-1; P Berry 1-1, F McGee 0-4(fs), D Barden 0-1; P Barden 0-1, K Mulligan, B Kavanagh 0-1.

Subs: N Farrell for Masterson (57); P Dowd for Kavanagh (57); C Mimnagh for Mulligan (70+2).

Referee: M Sludden (Tyrone).

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