Meath’s O’Byrne Cup semi-final win over Longford threw up another first for the GAA at inter-county senior level as this game was decided by free kicks after extra-time failed to separate the teams at Páirc Tailteann yesterday.
Both sides were afforded five free kicks from the 45-metre line to decide who would meet Westmeath in the decider after they finished level following 90 minutes.
The standard of the place kicking was far from exemplary but it was the home side who edged through courtesy of Cillian O’Sullivan’s converted effort. Earlier Mark McCabe pointed his effort while Sean McCormack was the only Longford players to hit the target.
It was a novel way to decide a game which both sides, particularly Meath, will have felt they should have won earlier.
The Royals adopted a defensive strategy throughout the opening half but at the break it was Longford who deservedly led 1-5 to 0-4. Robbie Smyth netted after Rian Brady had pounced on a mistake in the Meath rearguard on 32 minutes.
Meath made three changes at the break sending on Cillian O’Sullivan, James McEntee and Brian Power and they played much more direct and attacking football as they recovered to open up a three-point lead.
O’Sullivan had a major bearing on proceedings, setting up another sub Sean Tobin for a 57th-minute goal. The home side seemed to have weathered the Longford storm at that stage and a point from Joey Wallace on 60 minutes left them 1-11 to 1-8 clear.
However they were unable to hold on and a point from Robbie Smyth levelled the teams at 1-12 each, sending the game to extra-time.
With Daniel O’Neill accounting for two points Meath went four points clear in the second period of extra time.
The game was in its final minute when wing-back Michael Quinn grabbed a goal for the midlanders after an effort from Darren Gallagher hit the butt of a post.
Quinn then hit over the equaliser in semi-darkness before the teams faced up to the free kick shootout.
In the other semi-final, Westmeath held on for a hard-earned two-point win (1-9 to 1-7) over neighbours Offaly in TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar.
Westmeath produced a fine first-half display to lead 1-7 to 1-2.
Joseph O’Connor had a 14th minute goal for Offaly, but seven minutes later Kieran Martin set up Denis Corroon to fire Colin Kelly’s side into a lead they never relinquished.
Offaly kept going and Stephen Wallace’s side had cut the deficit back to two points, 1-8 to 1-6 by the 57th minute.
A fisted point by sub Finbar Coyne gave Westmeath breathing space, and while Cian Johnson scored a late Offaly point, it was the Lake County men who held on to advance.