Fourteen-man Longford hurled superbly in the second-half to edge out Louth in their Lory Meagher Championship clash at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday to edge home by 1-16 to 1-15.
Both sides had a win and a loss from their opening two matches, so a second loss in this clash would leave hopes of a Croke Park final hanging by a thread for either side.
Longford had to play the last five minutes of the first half and all of the second-half with just fourteen players after Evan Tully’s 30th minute straight red card, with the home side trailing by nine points to seven points at the interval.
Longford were missing John Mulhern and Karl Murray from their starting fifteen. Mulhern wasn’t fit to start as he had a rib injury, while Karl Murray was a late withdrawal as he became a father in advance of the game.
Everyone involved with Longford GAA would like to congratulate Karl and Rachel on their new baby girl.
Longford started brightly and were ahead by three points to one after 6 minutes. Cian Kavanagh from play and two Joe O’Brien scores (one free) for the home side, with Sean Kerrisk responding for the visitors.
However, Adrian Moran’s charges had a lucky escape in the opening minute as Seaghan Conneely was one-on-one with Longford keeper Conor Gallagher, but the Louth forward’s weak effort was saved by Gallagher.
Louth reeled off the next three scores to lead by a point on 13 minutes, as Mark Gahan, and two splendid points from Darren Geoghan edged them ahead by 4 points to 3.
O’Brien with another free drew the Midlanders level, but Geoghan with a free and another score from Gahan gave Louth a two point advantage after 19 minutes.
Back came Longford to once again draw level with a Paddy Lynam 65′ and O’Briens fourth of the contest, courtesy of his third free.
The Wee County fired over the next two points through Kerrisk and a Geoghan free to lead by eight points to six approaching the half-hour mark.
Disaster struck for Longford on the half-hour mark as Evan Tully received his marching orders to reduce the home side to fourteen players.
The incident happened just inside the Longford 65′ along the side-line. Tully was over enthusiastic in his rather robust challenge on a Louth player, and on the advise of his linesman, referee James Judge, flashed a straight red card at the Wolfe Tones man.
Longford keeper Gallagher came to his side’s rescue on 32 minutes, producing a magnificent save from Louth forward Geoghan. In the aftermath, the visitors were awarded a free which was converted by Geoghan to give them a three point lead.
Just before the half-time whistle, Kavanagh landed a monster point from almost seventy yards out after being set-up by Adam Quinn.
That left just two between the sides at the break with Louth up by nine points to seven.
Trailing by two points and a man down, the odds seemed stacked against Longford, but this team is resilient and highly motivated, and they produced an outstanding second-half display to earn a valuable victory in their quest to reach the Croke Park final.
An O’Brien free and a Reuben Murray point brought the teams level at nine points each on 43 minutes.
Geoghan’s sixth point of the match from a free for Louth was cancelled out by a Lynam free for Longford, while another O’Brien free put the Midlanders ahead by eleven points to ten after 52 minutes.
Longford then scored a crucial goal in the 54th minute. Reuben Murray gained posssession on the left and went on a long diagonal run holding off several challenges, however, he seemed to lose control of the sliotar and it seemed to go too far ahead of him. Murray to his credit didn’t give up and he raced Louth keeper Ruairi Morrissey to the ball, and although Morrissey got there first, his attempted clearance rebounded off Murray, looped over the Louth stopper, and ended up in the back of the net.
O’Brien from play with his seventh point of the match then gave Longford a five point cushion on 55 minutes.
Niall Keenan and Geoghan then pointed for Louth, while Lynam replied for Longford. Feidhleim Joyce got his only point for the visitors on the hour mark, only for O’Brien to slot over another free to restore Longford’s four point cushion.
The visitors then rallied to draw level with two minutes of normal time remaining, as they scored 1-01 without reply.
Conneely split the uprights and then on 68 minutes, Louth rattled the Longford net. They won a free about seventy yards out and somehow, Geoghan’s free sailed all the way to the Longford net to leave the score, Longford 1-14 Louth 1-14.
The Wee County suffered a blow on 69 minutes as Keenan was dismissed for a second yellow card offence.
Longford responded to Louth’s set back in fine style, as Lynam with a brilliant long-range free, and O’Brien’s ninth point of the match, gave the home side a two point lead deep into stoppage time.
Louth threw everything at Longford in the dying embers of stoppage time, but could only score a point from Geoghan, as Longford held on for a one point victory, to keep their championship hopes alive.
Longford: Conor Gallagher, Niall Moran, Enda Naughton, Johnny Casey, Adam Quinn, David Buckley, Aidan Sheridan, Evan Tully, Paddy Lynam (0-04, 2f, 1 65′), Emmet Corrigan, Cian Kavanagh (0-02), Cathal Mullane, Reuben Murray (1-01), Joe O’Brien (0-09, 6f), Micheal Mulcahy.
Substitutes: John Mulhern for Mulcahy (57 minutes), Paul Barden for Mulhern (72 minutes).
Yellow Cards: O’Brien (44 minutes), Mullane (48 minutes).
Red Card: Tully (30 minutes).
Louth: Ruairi Morrissey, Danny Morgan, Donal Ryan, Andrew Smith, Liam Molloy, Conor Quigley, Jamie McDonnell, Mark Gahan (0-02), Feidhleim Joyce (0-01), Seanie Crosbie, Sean Kerrisk (0-02), Niall Keenan (0-01), Seaghan Conneely (0-01), Darren Geoghan (1-08), Peter Fortune.
Substitutes: Andrew Mackin for Fortune (22 minutes), James Costello for Gahan (53 minutes), Padraig Fallon for Mackin, Matthew Fee for Crosbie (both 70 minutes).
Yellow Cards: Keenan (13 minutes), Danny Morgan (50 minutes), Fallon (64 minutes).
Red card: Keenan (69 minutes).
Referee: James Judge (Mayo).