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Longford get past Carlow




By Daire Walsh

Longford will face Meath next Sunday in the Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-final, following their deserved victory against Carlow at O’Connor Park, Tullamore this evening.

Thanks in no small part to an equally-shared combined haul of 0-10 by Robbie Smyth and Rian Brady - not to mention four points from the influential Darren Gallagher - Padraic Davis’ charges had the measure of their opponents.

Whilst a determined Carlow did conjure second half goals courtesy of Darragh Foley and Conor Crowley, a greater spread of scorers was the key behind Longford’s success. Whereas just four opposition players got their name on the scoresheet, the victors had no fewer than 11 contributors to their outstanding final tally.

The big news in advance of the game was the absence of Paul Broderick - an All Star nominee in 2018 - from the Carlow starting line-up. He was ultimately introduced before the opening period had elapsed, but his presence was missed during the early exchanges of the contest.

A Foley pointed free did cancel out a deadlock-breaker by Kevin Diffley, but Longford went on to dominate proceedings for the vast majority of the half. Championship debutant Ciaran Cunningham struggled to find his own men off a succession of kick-outs and the O’Farrell County took full advantage.

Michael Quinn broke forward to kick a fine point from centre half-back, while Gallagher (free) and Brady also found the target to create some early daylight between the teams. Gallagher raised a green flag in Longford’s championship win against Louth at the same stage of last year’s provincial series and was close to rattling the net in the 13th-minute.

A precise pass over the top by Colm P Smyth released the midfielder on goal, but Cunningham was equal to his final effort. This came as a let-off for Carlow, but with Foley adding another free, they were just two in arrears (0-4 to 0-2) at the first half water break.

Nevertheless, Longford remained in the driving seat - thanks in no small part to the prowess of corner-forwards Brady and Robbie Smyth. The latter gathered a cross field pass on the stroke of 20 minutes and curled a left-footed shot between the posts.

Brady and Gallagher (free) supplemented their ever-increasing personal tallies, before Smyth added his second point in the space of just four minutes. Although another Foley placed-ball halted this scoring sequence, it only offered the Barrowsiders a brief respite.

Gallagher, Dessie Reynolds, Smyth and Donal McElligott fired over four points without reply to further reinforce their superiority. Carlow registered their first score from play through Colm Hulton in the 32nd-minute and they were boosted by the imminent arrival of Broderick and Mikey Bambrick on the scene.

After his initial replacement Chris Blake had dissected the uprights, Broderick slotted over a routine free. Yet, an earlier Brady contribution ensured Longford were 0-13 to 0-6 in front at the interval.

Still, Carlow manager Niall Carew would have been encouraged by the spirit shown by his side at the end of the opening half and even more so when they cut substantially into the Longford lead on the resumption. Supplementing another Blake single, Broderick fired over a two-point salvo to leave Carlow just four adrift.

This was the wake-up call that their opponents needed, however, and the 1968 champions responded with three unanswered scores of their own. Reynolds, David McGivney and the elusive Brady found the range while - in response to another Broderick free - McGivney and Smyth enhanced their county’s haul.

Longford once again looked set for a convincing triumph, only for Carlow to throw a potential spanner into the works. O’Hanrahan corner-forward Conor Crowley cut inside from the left-wing and buried spectacularly to the net - beyond the reach of the helpless Paddy Collum.

Of course, there was no need for Longford to panic, particularly with full-forward Joseph Hagan and Smyth adding points in advance of the final-quarter. Having combined with one of his inside partners, Hagan joined Brady in slotting over successive points to put Longford nine clear with 14 minutes remaining.

White flag strikes from Foley and Blake - either side of a fisted Gallagher effort - prevented the Carlow heads from dropping and a potential lifeline fell their way in the 69th-minute. After Hulton and Patrick Fox traded scores, Foley shook the Longford net in clinical style.

This left just five points between the sides moving into six minutes of additional time, during which Carlow lost Diffley to a black card. Nonetheless, a Dylan Farrell score made sure of Longford’s safe passage to the last-eight.

Scorers - Longford: Robbie Smyth, Rian Brady 0-5 each, Darren Gallagher 0-4 (3f), Dessie Reynolds, David McGivney, Joseph Hagan 0-2 each, Michael Quinn, Kevin Diffley, Donal McElligott, Patrick Fox, Dylan Farrell 0-1 each. Carlow: Darragh Foley 1-4 (0-3f), Paul Broderick 0-4 (3f), Conor Crowley 1-0, Chris Blake 0-3, Colm Hulton 0-2.

LONGFORD: Paddy Collum; Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Enda Macken; Iarla O’Sullivan, Michael Quinn, Colm P Smyth; Kevin Diffley, Darren Gallagher; Dessie Reynolds, David McGivney, Donal McElligott; Robbie Smyth, Joseph Hagan, Rian Brady. Subs: Daniel Mimnagh for Colm P Smyth (33), Liam Connerton for McElligott (56), Oran Kenny for Brady (58), Darragh Doherty for R Smyth (61), Dylan Farrell for Reynolds (66).

CARLOW: Ciaran Cunningham; Liam Roberts, Shane Redmond, Josh Moore; Jordan Morrissey, John Murphy, Seanie Bambrick; Sean Gannon, Eoghan Ruth; Ross Dunphy, Colm Hulton, Jamie Clarke; Conor Crowley, Chris Blake, Darragh Foley. Subs: Paul Broderick for Dunphy, Mikey Bambrick for Ruth (both 33), Jordan Lowry for Murphy (half-time), Conor Lawlor for S Bambrick (66).

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

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