Wicklow advance to Leinster semis

Wicklow 2-12 Longford 1-13

Wicklow 2-12 Longford 1-13

Mick O'Dwyer celebrates his 73rd birthday in a few weeks' time and the Kerryman's magic shows little sign of wilting.

This afternoon he watched his Wicklow side power through to a Leinster SFC quarter-final against Westmeath as a 68th-minute goal from Paul Earls saw them edge Longford out in Portlaoise.

High-octane football and plenty of drama entertained the large crowd at O'Moore Park, especially in the second half where both sides hit dominant patches, with the game firmly in the melting pot right until the finish.

Glenn Ryan, managing Longford in Championship football for the first time, will certaining rue the seven wides his side amassed when wind-assisted during the opening half.

Despite the wayward shooting, they still led by 0-07 to 0-06 at the interval.

Goals win games and it was Wicklow's ability to bag two goals at vital stages on the restart which ensured they sent Longford packing and into the qualifiers.

Flame-haired attacker Rory Nolan showed no signs of a lack of inexperience in the heat of the Championship.

Within a minute of the restart, Nolan bagged the Garden County's opening goal.

Wicklow were rampant at this stage, building a double-score advantage at 1-11 to 0-07 by the 57th minute.

But Ryan's charges showed great determination and a never-say-die attitude as a Padraig Berry goal saw them back in the hunt, only for Earls to end their hopes late on.

Longford held a 0-3 to 0-1 lead on 11 minutes, making a promising start with Ger Dennigan (0-02) and Francis McGee both on target.

Tony Hannon bagged Wicklow's four opening points as the Garden County took a 0-04 to 0-03 lead by the 19th minute - with all of Hannon's scores coming from placed balls.

Wicklow continued to pile on the pressure. Hannon kicking his side's first wide in the 22nd minute, while Dean Odlum's effort a minute later saw Wicklow break two points clear.

However, Longford hit a purple patch, grabbing four points in as many minutes with McGee (0-02), Brian Kavanagh and David Barden on target as they took a 0-07 to 0-05 lead, five minutes before the break.

Wicklow took control at midfield once more and responded well with Earls cutting the deficit to a point.

Earls and company made an explosive start to the second half as O'Dwyer's men bagged an impressive 1-1 inside three minutes of the restart.

The Garden County drew first blood when captain Leighton Glynn saw his shot come off the upright and the unmarked Nolan was well placed to gather possession and slot the ball past Longford goalkeeper Damien Sheridan.

Wicklow kept the momentum going with full-forward Seanie Furlong kicking his first point as his side broke 1-7 to 0-7 in front.

Longford dominated possession over the next four minutes, but a strong Wicklow defence were giving away little. Kevin Mulligan and David Barden both added to Longford's wides tally.

Frustration also began to set in with Shane Mulligan and Brian Kavanagh receiving yellow cards as Wicklow made full use of any breaks that went their way.

They continued to rack up points and built up a 1-11 to 0-7 lead with 12 minutes remaining, only for Longford to roar back at them with a brilliant attacking surge.

Amazingly, and minus the talented Kavanagh who had been substituted, Longford kicked 1-4 during a six-minute spell to level the contest for the first time in 36 minutes.

Points from McGee and Kevin Smith were followed by Berry's well-struck goal, and further points from Dennigan and Paul Barden drew the sides at 1-11 apiece.

But Wicklow were able to steady the ship once more and courtesy of Earls' strike, they booked their passage through to Leinster's last eight.

Scorers for Wicklow: P Earls 1-02, R Nolan 1-01, T Hannon (0-03f, 0-01 '45'), S Furlong (0-02f) 0-04 each, D Odlum 0-01

Scorers for Longford: P Berry 1-01, G Dennigan (0-03f), F McGee (0-04f) 0-04 each, B Kavanagh, P Barden, D Barden, K Smith 0-01 each

WICKLOW: M Travers; C Hyland, D Power, A Byrne; P McWalter, D O hAnnaidh, P Dalton; J Stafford, T Walsh; T Hannon, L Glynn, R Nolan; D Odlum, S Furlong, P Earls.

Subs used: B McGrath for Power (half-time).

LONGFORD: D Sheridan; D Reilly, B Gilleran, P Foy; D Masterson, E Williams, S Mulligan, G Dennigan, K Smith; P Berry, F McGee, D Barden; P Barden, K Mulligan, B Kavanagh.

Subs used: N Farrell for Masterson, P Dowd for Kavanagh (both 55 mins), M Reynolds for Mulligan (70+2).

Referee: Martin Sludden (Tyrone); Sub Referee used: Marty Duffy (Sligo)

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