IN a season of shock results this one might just slip under the radar, but Longford’s minor footballers achievement in claiming a Leinster title deserves tremendous credit.
On April 17 these sides met in a first round encounter in Tullamore and Offaly destroyed their opponents, finishing 22 points to the good.
A 28-point turnaround later, the Faithful are still waiting on a first provincial minor title since 1989, while Longford repeated their 2002 success.
Massive outsiders for the match, Ciarán Fox’s young charges had a shaky start but after Offaly failed to take their chances Longford visibly grew in confidence and came from a point down at half time to claim the title.
The jittery start was overcome and any inferiority complex was cast aside as they set about nullifying Offaly’s threat and began to take fine score after fine score.
“I think the occasion got to us,” Fox said of their start. “We were opened up in the first half and there was a couple of goal chances there and we were lucky they didn’t take them.
“We’ve had a great couple of wins since that game on April 17 and every win built us up. In the dressing room after that game we definitely didn’t know how good we were, but we knew we weren’t that bad.
“That was the main thing, and from there we picked up results and the momentum built from there. They are a great bunch of guys who will work their socks off all day, every day.
“The way it turned out the heavy defeat helped us. On April 17 we were the worst team in Leinster, on July 7 we’re the best. All of those back door games helped us.”
Offaly went in a point up at half time, but it could and probably should have been a lot more.
Their main man all season has been captain Noel Andrew Graham, but he missed a number of early frees. Two goal chances were snuffed out by the anticipation of corner back Ronan Keogh, while Longford took their few chances with corner forwards Robert Smith and Declan Mimnagh scoring two points each.
Offaly’s half forward line of Stuart Cullen, Derek Kelly and Peter Cunningham all scored points, with Graham adding a free and Barry Cushen a fisted point as they led 0-5 to 0-4 at the break.
But as Graham’s influence was gradually cancelled out by Diarmuid Cooney and particularly Darren Gallagher in midfield, Longford’s confidence grew and Cooney’s rousing score from the throw in set the trend for the half.
Graham restored his side’s lead with a free, but that was the last time they were in front as Gallagher and Padraigh McCormack sent over impressive long range points in quick succession.
Another Graham free levelled, but Smith showed great skill to point on the turn, before sending a free over. A Graham ‘45 was rendered irrelevant by a Darren Farrelly and two each from Smith and Barry McKeon.
Offaly pushed for a goal, but it never looked like coming and their players collectively dropped to the ground on the full time whistle in stark contrast to the ecstatic boys in blue and gold.
Scorers for Longford: R Smith (0-6, 4f) D Mimnagh (0-2, 1f), B McKeon (0-2), D Farrelly, D Cooney, P McCormack, D Gallagher (0-1 each).
Scorers for Offaly: NA Graham (0-4, 3f, 1’45), B Cushen, S Cullen, D Kelly, P Cunningham (0-1 each).
Subs for Longford: T Madden for Donohoe (27), C Lynch for Farrelly (53).
Subs for Offaly: J Brickland for Camon (40), J Gethings for Hanlon (50), I Curry for Lowry (58), A McDonagh for Cullen (60), E McCabe for Kelly (62).
Referee: J Curley (Meath).
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