Longford 2-13 Monaghan 1-13: Well, Monaghan can hardly say they weren’t forewarned. Twelve years ago, Denis Connerton brought an unfancied Longford outfit to Clones and plundered Monaghan’s home in the only previous championship meeting between these sides.
He came back again to Clones on Saturday night, this time with his son Liam on board as a hard-working forward, and scaled even greater heights to bring one of the best eras ever for Monaghan football to an abrupt halt.
And it was a thoroughly deserved win by a side with plenty of conviction, who recovered from a Monaghan blitz before the break to seize control again of a gripping encounter in front of a 5,262 crowd.
Not that the home fans enjoyed much of it. The warning signs were there when Longford raced into a 1-1 to 0-0 lead after just four minutes — playing against the wind.
“Maybe Saturday evening football is something that we seem to like more so than the Sunday afternoon ones! It’s fantastic,” said Connerton.
But they could have played this one at 11am this morning and the outcome would be the same. The hungrier team usually comes out on top in championship matches and Longford, not overburdened with 50-50 decisions from the officials, were up for it.
“The qualifiers have been fantastic for Longford. We’ve produced some very big performances in them. This is marvellous and to repeat a victory over Monaghan again on their home patch, that’s incredible. But we need to look ahead to next weekend straight away.”
His men were hit with a Monaghan blitz before half-time when the Farney outfit hit 1-6 without reply to wipe out an early lead and take a three-point advantage into the break. But Longford refused to die after the restart and produced one of their finest ever displays to stun the home followers.
“We’re over the moon. It was really one of the great performances that we produced over the years,” added Connerton. “To come here, into the home of the Ulster champions and to beat them, we had to play out of our skins. We almost played the perfect game. To get over the line, at the very end, we were absolutely delighted.”
This was Monaghan’s third game in 14 days and it showed, and Malachy O’Rourke’s men struggled to get into the tie, although two points from Conor McManus eventually settled them. But Longford managed to keep a five points gap until eight minutes from the break.
That’s when Monaghan opened up with Conor McCarthy and Jack McCarron prominent and a goal from Colin Walshe saw them lead by 1-9 to 1-6 at the interval.
But Longford took the game to their illustrious opponents after the restart, shooting quick points from Diarmuid Masterson and Brian Kavanagh, while goalkeeper Rory Beggan landed a free for a wasteful Monaghan side.
Masterson again found the range and James McGivney hit his third point to tie the match at 1-10 apiece after 44 minutes.
Kavanagh and Connerton pointed for Longford before Conor McCarthy and Shane Carey hauled them back level with 12 minutes left.
That’s when Longford hit for home. Connerton pointed and then Robbie Smyth fired home their second goal and there was no way back for Monaghan.
They got the gap back to a goal but never looked like saving their season as Longford dug in and closed out a day they will never forget.
In 2004, Longford ended Colm Coyle’s reign as Monaghan boss; six years ago they brought John O’Mahony’s term with Mayo to an end with another stunning qualifier success. It remains to be seen if another managerial scalp is taken this time round but Longford will be gauging their success this summer on something else — and all focus will be on creating another Super Saturday next weekend.
Only a fool would bet against them.
Scorers for Monaghan:
C McCarthy 0-4, C McManus 0-4 (3f), C Walshe 1-0, J McCarron 0-2, R Beggan 0-1 (1f), R McAnespie 0-1, S Carey 0-1.
Scorers for Longford:
R Smyth 1-3 (2f), D Masterson 0-3, J McGivney 0-3, B Kavanagh 0-3 (1f, 1 s-l), M Quinn 1-0, L Connerton 0-1.
R Beggan; C Walshe, D Wylie, C Boyle; K O’Connell, V Corey, F Kelly; N McAdam, D Hughes; R McAnespie, D Malone, T Kerr; J McCarron, C McManus, C McCarthy.
O Duffy for Malone (h-t), S Carey for O’Connell (h-t), D Mone for Kerr (50), K Hughes for McCarron (56), S Gollogly for Duffy (63)
P Collum; C Farrelly, P McGee, B Gilleran; D McElligott, M Quinn, B McKeon; M Brady, D Gallagher; D Masterson, D Brady, J McGivney; R Smyth, B Kavanagh, L Connerton.
B O’Farrell for McGee (24), D Reynolds for McElligott (31, black card), M Hughes for M Brady (h-t), R Connor for McKeon (60, black card), B Farrell for Gallagher (65), S Hannon for Smyth (72).
C Branagan (Down).
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