Longford 1-12 Wexford 0-13
On a day of triumph, newly crowned NFL Division Three champions Longford will want to focus on the positives and enjoy the celebrations.
But in the cold light of the next day they assemble for training, they will begin the task of searching for the reasons for their second-half collapse, when they almost lost a game they appeared set to win by a landslide.
Glen Ryan’s side led by nine points after bombarding Wexford with a scintillating display of attacking football.
However, when they were forced to defend in the second half, they were much less convincing, and must count themselves fortunate to survive with a two points margin, thanks to a nine points tally from Sean McCormack and a first-half stoppage time goal from substitute Paul Kelly.
Longford got to the pace of the game right from the start, and tormented a shaky Wexford defence with their positive, attacking style.
McCormack was the go-to man, and he proved supremely effective both from frees and play as Glen Ryan’s men built up a healthy advantage.
McCormack stuck a handful of early opportunities between the posts, and Niall Mulligan also steered over a neat point from play.
It wasn’t until the 13th minute that Wexford got off the mark with a Ciaran Lyng free, but Longford refused to be distracted, and veteran Paul Barden slotted over two vintage inspirational points as the Midlanders moved into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Dermot Brady and Barry Gilleran were always in control at the back as Longford repelled a series of attacks in an impressive shut-out.
Redmond Barry did slice over a point, but that was quickly cancelled out by McCormack’s fifth of the evening.
And they turned the screw in stoppage time when Brian Kavanagh laid on the defence-splitting pass for substitute Paul Kelly to slide the ball to the net with his first touch.
Longford led by 1-10 to 0-3 at the halfway stage, but it was Wexford who carried the attacking impetus after the break.
They chipped away at the deficit, Lyng and Barry hitting the points that sparked their revival.
Two McCormack frees was the sum total of Longford’s second half scoring, and they needed a massive effort from Brady and Quinn to hold out in the face of a Wexford rampage.
Daithi Waters was a key figure at midfield as Jason Ryan’s men played their way back into it, and with PJ Banville showing his class with a brilliant point, and substitute Shane Roche banging over two quality scores, they looked as if they could pull off an unlikely victory.
Wing back Adrian Flynn pressed forward to shoot a point, and when Eric Bradley finally got some reward for his foraging with a 63rd minute score, just a goal separated the sides.
Wexford continued to press, but with Longford flooding bodies back to assist with the survival effort, they could only manage a stoppage time free from top scorer Lyng.
Longford: D Sheridan, D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly, C Smyth, M Quinn, S Mulligan, B McElvaney, J Keegan, P McCormack, P Barden (0-2), N Mulligan (0-1), D McElligot, S McCormack (0-9, 6f), B Kavanagh.
Subs: P Kelly (1-0) for P McCormack (35), J McGinty for Mulligan (58), F McGee for McElligot (69)
Wexford: A Masterson, R Tierney, G Molloy, N Murphy, B Malone, D Murphy, A Flynn (0-1), A Shore, D Waters, R Barry (0-3, 1f), C Lyng (0-4, 3f), B Brosnan (0-1), C Morris, E Bradley (0-1), PJ Banville (0-1).
Subs: L Chin for Murphy (20), R Quinlivan for Shore (44), P Byrne for Brosnan (44), S Roche (0-2) for Morris (50), C Carthy for Bradley (70)
Referee: C Lane (Cork).