Laois 0-10 Longford 0-9
It was far from pretty and it wouldn’t be true to say that Justin McNulty won’t worry about it ahead of a quarter-final clash with Dublin but at least they have that game to look forward to after scraping this one-point victory over Longford in Portlaoise.
Longford were left to rue a woeful tally of 16 wides and while a blustery wind didn’t help matters – Laois had 11 wides of their own – some of the losers’ misses had to be seen to be believed.
To be fair, Laois did spurn a couple of good goal opportunities in the second half and Damien Sheridan made a good save from Colm Begley but still there was a real sense that this was one that got away from Longford.
Laois were bristling with intent early on, with Billy Sheehan a hugely visible presence. The Kerry native fed Daithi Carroll for a point after just 10 seconds, before firing over two fine scores to put the home side three up by the eighth minute.
Brian Kavanagh finally opened Longford’s account from a free after a rare attacking foray in the 12th minute but Michael John Tierney responded with a glorious effort with the outside of the left boot from fully 50m.
Longford gradually settled into proceedings in the second quarter though and a brace of points from Sean McCormack increased their optimism. Indeed the corner-forward might well have had a goal as he elected to chip over from around 16m in front of the posts, with only Laois goalie, Eoin Culliton in front of him.
A brace of points from the promising Daithi Carroll helped Laois go in at the break leading by 0-6 to 0-4 but Longford kicked some incredible wides in that second quarter and should really have been at least level at the interval.
The second half proved to be even worse than the first but despite their shooting difficulties, Glenn Ryan’s men pegged back their two-point deficit thanks to scores from Bernard McElvaney (free) and McCormack.
Crucially though, they wasted chances to hit the front and Laois punished them with three successive scores. Carroll got their first of the half in the 51st minute. Niall Donoher and Ross Munnelly stretched the gap but Longford refused to go away.
McCormack slotted two frees to reduce the margin to the minimum but the wides kept totting up before Donoher notched up his second point.
Brian Kavanagh curled over a wonderful score in the 67th minute to leave home supporters biting their fingernails. Longford just couldn’t find the equaliser though and thus were condemned to the Qualifiers, while Laois must improve significantly before their date with Dublin.
Laois: E Culliton; C Healy, K Meaney, M Timmons; D Strong, S Julian, P O’Leary; C Begley, B Quigley; D Carroll 0-4(1f), J O’Loughlin, N Donoher 0-2; R Munnelly 0-1(f), B Sheehan 0-2, MJ Tierney 0-1. Subs: K Lillis for Tierney (45); D Kingston for Sheehan (56); C Boyle for Strong (61); P Clancy for Munnelly (70)
Longford: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; S Mulligan, K Diffley, N Farrell; B McElvaney 0-1(f), M Brady 0-1; D Barden, P Dowd, P Barden; D McElligott, B Kavanagh 0-2(1f), S McCormack 0-5(2fs). Subs: F McGee for Dowd (45); P Foy for Mulligan (54); J O’Shea for Brady (61); D Masterson for Farrell (61)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)