Qualifier specialists Tyrone are up and running again, and while a four points margin at Pearse Park will not inspire supreme confidence, they are set to gain momentum along the back door route.
Cathal McShane’s two first half goals set the Red Hands up perfectly, and with a ten points cushion going into the closing stages, they were never in trouble, conceding a goal deep into stoppage time.
Peter Harte’s nine points haul made a big contribution on a day when Mickey Harte’s side made the first steps at getting themselves in position to make a return to mainstream championship football following their Ulster SFC semi-final defeat to Donegal.
Daniel Mimnagh’s point in the opening minute proved to be their only score from play in the first half, and it was Tyrone who displayed their ruthless side with two goals inside the opening quarter.
Both were netted by McShane, the first in the ninth minute somewhat gift-wrapped by a nervous home defence. Paddy Collum’s poor kick-out was picked up by Niall Sludden, who slipped the ball to the big full forward, whose initial shot was blocked by Barry O’Farrell, but he latched on to the rebound to bundle the ball to the net from close range.
Peter Harte steered his second free kick between the posts, and the Red Hands, leading by 1-3 to 0-1 had control of the game not just on the scoreboard, but in the psychology battle.
David McGivney steered over three frees, but McShane struck again in the 17th minute, punching to the net for his second from Michael Cassidy’s searching delivery.
Frustrated by Tyrone’s packed defence, Longford switched to a more direct approach, but goalkeeper Niall Morgan, always in command of his area, came off his line to confidently claim a couple of high balls.
Despite the early movement of Barry McKeon and Mickey Quinn, Longford’s offensive threat was comfortably dealt with by Ronan McNamee and Hugh Pat McGeary, and they worked the ball comfortably from deep for McShane to pick off a couple of scores for a 2-7 to 0-5 interval lead.
Just when they appeared to be poised to press home the advantage, Tyrone became sloppy, missing clear-cut scoring chaesnc with a third goal missed as McShane’s cross to the far post was too high for sub Ben McDonnell.
Longford narrowed the gap through Colm P Smyth and McGivney, but Harte rediscovered the range to pick off four more scores at the other end.
Wing backs Frank Burns and Cassidy were driving forces with their thrusting runs from deep, keeping Tyrone on the attack, and with Longford coughing up free kicks, Harte was unerring off his left foot.
Colm P Smyth fired over a couple of eye-catching Longford points, but ten points separated the sides at the end of the 70 minutes, before Tyrone allowed their guard to slip late on, the home side hitting 1-3 in stoppage time, including a goal from substitute Iarla O’Sullivan.
Longford: P Collum; P Fox, D McElligot, B O’Farrell; M Quinn (0-2), P McCormack, D Quinn; J Keegan, D McGivney (0-4, 4f); G Rogers, B McKeon (0-2, 1f), C Smyth (0-3); D Mimnagh (0-1), J McGivney, J Hagan (0-1).
Subs: A McElligot for Rogers (42), D Doherty for O’Farrell (54), A Farrell for Keegan (56), M Hughes for J McGivney (67), S Kenny (0-1) for Mimnagh (67), I O’Sullivan (1-0) for Hagan (71)
Tyrone: N Morgan; HP McGeary (0-1), R McNamee, M McKernan; M Cassidy (0-1), K McGeary, F Burns; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; D McClure, N Sludden, P Harte (0-9, 7f); D McCurry, C McShane (2-2), M Donnelly.
Subs: B McDonnell (0-2) for Kennedy (h-t), C Meyler for K McGeary (h-t), R Brennan for McKernan (42), K Coney for McClure (54), C McAliskey for McCurry (54), C McCann for Sludden (64)
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).