By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Offaly 4-16 Longford 1-12
Offaly had way too much firepower for Longford and it was their more clinical finishing of better chances created that earned them the new Division 4 silverware.
In the first half in particular, Pat Flanagan’s charges were more patient and economic. Longford had plenty of chances in that period but shot an incredible 11 wides. In contrast, Offaly had just three and went in with a four-point lead (1-7 to 0-6) at half time.
There remained the sense though that Offaly carried a more comprehensive threat, as Niall McNamee, Nigel Dunne, William Mulhall and Bernard Allen all buzzed around the place and gave the Longford defence nightmares with their movement and inter-play.
Graham Guilfoyle was a Trojan operator at midfield while skipper, Paul McConway led a titanic defensive effort, especially in the second half, while also getting forward himself for a brilliant goal.
Dunne scored the first-half goal in the 23rd minute, sending a low shot beyond Paddy Collum, who had earlier saved brilliantly from Bernard Allen. Dunne was put in position by Allen but it was the imagination and skill of McNamee that created the overlap.
From the next attack, Alan Mulhall had to dive to his right to deny Brian Kavanagh’s goalbound shot and that was a very important intervention in the context of the game.
That Francis McGee’s 45 drifted wide was symptomatic of Longford’s problems and it took centre-back, Diarmuid Masterson to show them the way with two splendid points from distance.
McNamee moved to full-forward in the second half and kicked two quick points before McConway strode forward to finish a move started by the industrious Guilfoyle with a rocket to the roof of the Longford net.
Substitute, Shane Doyle got one back for Jack Sheedy’s men three minutes later and with Kavanagh slotting two frees, the margin was down to four.
Longford continued to send their half-back line forward without anyone retreating to provide cover and Offaly had the players to punish the resultant gaps.
McNamee settled them with his fourth point from play and Mulhall added a score with either boot to open up a seven-point gap.
Guilfoyle took a pass in oceans of space from Anton Sullivan before sending a piledriver from 16m out past the unsighted Collum for Offaly’s third goal and the verdict wasn’t in any doubt by the time both sides were reduced to 14 players on the hour, Masterson and Sullivan both receiving yellow cards.
There was still time for one more goal, courtesy of Mulhall and the day was Offaly’s.
Offaly: W Mulhall 1-5(2fs), N Dunne 1-3; N McNamee 0-4, P McConway 1-0, B Allen 0-2(1f); A Sullivan, N Smith 0-1each
Longford: B Kavanagh 0-6(5fs); S Doyle 1-0; F McGee (1f), D Masterson 0-2 each; M Quinn, R McInerney (f) 0-1 acj
Offaly: A Mulhall, B Darby P McConway, D Brady, N Darby, J Moloney, J O’Connor, G Guilfoyle, N Smith, E Carroll, N McNamee, A Sullivan, B Allen, N Dunne, W Mulhall. Subs: P Cunningham for Carroll (57), N Bracken for Allen (64), E Rigney for B Darby (65), C Donohue for N Darby (67), K Mullally for W Mulhall (69), J Evans for McNamee (70)
Longford: P Collum, D Brady, B O’Farrell, P Foy, CP Smyth, D Masterson, E Williams, B Gilleran, K Diffley, M Quinn, P McKeon, R McEntire, R McInerney, B Kavanagh, F McGee. Subs: S Doyle for McKeon (ht), C Farrelly for Williams (44), A Rowan for Smyth (57), D Reynolds for McGee (57)
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)