Longford 1-15 Limerick 1-21 (after extra time)
A greater scoring spread allied with a strong bench and incalculable courage enabled Limerick to emerge from Longford’s Pearse Park fortress with a memorable round 2 qualifier victory this afternoon.
In what was a titanic tussle, one could pinpoint one clear moment when this tie turned.
Despite struggling for large periods of the game, Longford had gotten themselves two points up when Francis McGee shot first time off the turf but only found the legs of Limerick goalkeeper Brian Scanlon.
Johnny McCarthy made a rare foray forward to point at the other end from the next attack and Limerick sensed a chance.
Points from Ian Ryan and Mike Sheehan brought the sides level, but there was plenty of drama in the four minutes of injury time, as McCormack restored Limerick’s advantage, only for youngster Derry O’Connor to bring us to extra time.
Limerick were the team with the belief in that added 20 minutes and were three points ahead at the end of the first period.
Two Seanie McCormack frees reduced the margin to two but Longford had Declan Reilly and David Barden sent off and Limerick made hay from the resultant space, and Derry O’Connor’s goal from the last act of the game secured a brilliant win.
Longford dominated early on but a two-point advantage after 15 minutes was scant reflection of that. Limerick clearly took comfort from their opponents’ attacking frailties, taking charge in the second quarter and notching up the five consecutive points.
The long-serving duo of Stephen Kelly and Stephen Lucey led the way, and when Eoghan O’Connor showed good pace and strength to point in the 34th minute, the Shannonsiders were leading by three.
Out of nowhere though, Longford struck for a goal. McGee found Niall Mulligan with a sumptuous outside-of-the-boot pass and though Scanlon made a splendid save, the Longford Slashers man made sure at the second attempt.
With McGee and McCormack adding points from play, Longford somehow led at half time 1-5 to 0-7.
Limerick continued to assert as they had done in the latter half of the opening period in terms of possession, but this time it was their turn to find the wind no guarantee of scores.
What’s more, Longford saw their conversion rate increase exponentially, and with the excellent Francis McGee, McCormack, David Barden and Paul Barden raising white flags, were a goal clear when Scanlon made that brilliant stop that kickstarted a famous Limerick comeback.
Limerick: D O’Connor 1-2; I Ryan (3fs) 0-4; E O’Connor, I Corbett 0-3; S Buckley 0-2; S Kelly, S Lucey, J McCarthy, M Sheehan, CP Smyth(op), B Scanlon(45), S O’Carroll 0-1 each
Longford: S McCormack 0-8(4fs); F McGee 0-4; N Mulligan 1-0; P Barden 0-2; D Barden 0-1
LIMERICK: B Scanlon; A Lane, J McCarthy, L O’Dwyer; J Riordan, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J Donovan, S Buckley; J O’Meara, S Kelly, P Browne; E O’Connor, I Ryan, S O’Carroll. Subs: M Sheehan for Lane (40); I Corbett for O’Dwyer (54); D Quaid for Lucey (65); B O’Brien for Donovan (66); D O’Connor for Kelly (69); E Barry for O’Meara (76)
LONGFORD: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; CP Smyth, M Quinn, S Mulligan; B McElvaney, J Keegan; D McElligott, P Barden, N Mulligan; F McGee, B Kavanagh, S McCormack. Subs: D Barden for Keegan (ht); P McCormack for McElligott (ht); P Foy for McElvaney (59); N Farrell for Smyth (70); JJ Matthews for Kavanagh (79); McElvaney for N Mulligan (84)
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).