GAA | Louth’s season comes to an end as Longford run out easy winners in Drogheda

All Ireland Qualifiers | Longford 2–15 Louth 1–10

The Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda

Louth will play no further part in this year’s championship after they slumped to an eight-point defeat against Longford in the first round of the qualifiers in Drogheda on Saturday evening.

Played in simmering heat, Longford took a four-point cushion into the break but it could — and should — have been a bigger margin with Denis Connerton’s side hitting seven wides in the opening 35 minutes.

Liam Connerton’s penalty, less than a minute into the second-half, put a more realistic gap of seven between the sides and left Colin Kelly’s side with it all to do but they were thrown a lifeline when Eoin O’Connor raised a green flag.

It was the Midlanders, though, who responded in impressive fashion, hitting seven of the final 11 scores against, to secure a well-deserved place in the second round. Louth, on the other hand, finished with 12-men and will watch on from the sidelines for the rest of the season.

Kelly made four changes to the side that was beaten by Meath in the Leinster Championship quarter-final. Sean O’Mahonys’ Kurt Murphy, along with Darren McMahon, Andy McDonnell and Ruairi Moore all came in with Kevin Carr, Tommy Durnin, Declan Byrne and Ryan Burns making way.

Their opponents, who were beaten in comprehensive fashion by Laois in the Leinster Championship, made just one change to the listed team with Daniel Mimnagh of Killoe Young Emmets replacing Darren Gallagher in the half forward line.

Their intensity shone through in the opening stages with Michael Quinn and Robbie Smyth leading the Louth backline a merry dance to score the opening two points of the afternoon.

James Califf did get Louth off the mark with a well-taken free from the right in the 14th minute but Longford re-established their two-point lead when Smyth turned Murphy again to grab his second of the afternoon.

Louth finally injected some pace into their attacking play a minute later when McDonnell and McEneaney combined to tee up John Bingham.

The visitors hit three wides in quick succession after that and Louth took advantage by edging in front for the first time, Califf hitting his first score from open play after Paraic Smith’s burst from the middle of the park.

Longford continued to rack up the wides, McGivney making it seven in the opening 25 minutes alone with a wayward effort but he atoned either side of that miss with two scores, the second coming after some chaotic defending in the Louth ranks.

Kelly reacted to his side’s lacklustre display by introducing Declan Byrne for James Stewart with 28 minutes played and the natives moved 0–5 to 0–4 ahead just seconds later, Jim McEneaney drawing warm applause with a tidy effort from the left.

At the other end, they just couldn’t get a handle on Smyth’s movement and the forward sent over a booming free to restore parity. More shabby defensive play saw the resulting kick out won by a player in blue; Barry Gilleran steaming forward to knock it over the top.

Smyth had the final say before the changeover, turning three players in red to win a free kick that he converted with ease. If that was simple, his fifth of the day, coming in stoppage time, was sublime, the Abbeylara man scoring the point of the half right in front of the main stand to put Longford four ahead at the break, 0–9 to 0–4.

Just 33 seconds of the second half had elapsed when the visitors were awarded a penalty after Liam Connerton’s shot was blocked by the hand of the prone Anthony Williams. Connerton sent Lynch the wrong way with the penalty, propelling Longford seven points in front to set the alarm bells ringing.

Ryan Burns and Adrian Reid were amongst those who were dispatched from the bench and the Hunterstown Rovers star made an impact with his first touch, firing over a much-needed score.

The mountain looked to have become a bit more surmountable when Reid played the ball off for Eoin O’Connor to slide it under Paddy Collum in the 44th minute.

It was Longford, though who reacted in style by scoring the next four points. A blistering solo effort by Dessie Reynolds started the sequence with McGivney and another brace from Smyth following suit.

Smyth’s afternoon came to a premature end in the 58th minute when he was dismissed for a second bookable offence but the Abbeylara man had inflicted enough damage for it to really matter.

John Bingham’s point had the scoreline reading 2–12 to 1–8 but any glimmer of hope was extinguished when another substitute, Tommy Durnin, was given his marching orders by Noel Mooney for a second yellow card.

Barry McKeon’s subsequent goal but the nail in Louth’s coffin and the day ended in misery with Patrick Reilly and Ryan Burns also given gate, the latter for kicking a ball at the umpire in a move that summed up Louth’s day.

Scorers — LONGFORD: Robbie Smyth (0–7, 5f), Liam Connerton, Barry McKeon (1–0 each), David McGivney (0–3, 2f), Dessie Reynolds, Larry Moran, John Keegan, Michael Quinn, Barry Gilleran (0–1 each)

LOUTH: Eoin O’Connor (1–0), James Califf (0–3, 2f), John Bingham, Ryan Burns (2f) (0–2 each), Jim McEneaney, Tommy Durnin, Gerard McSorley (1f) (0–1 each).

LONGFORD: Paddy Collum; Dermot Brady, Padraig McCormack, Barry Gilleran; Donal McElligott, Michael Quinn, Dessie Reynolds; John Keegan, David McGivney; Diarmuid Masterson, James McGivney, Daniel Mimnagh; Robbie Smyth, Liam Connerton, Barry McKeon. Subs: Andrew Farrell for B Gilleran, 62 mins; Larry Moran for J McGivney, 65 mins; Conor Berry for D McGivney, 67 mins; Cian Farrelly for B McKeown, 70 mins; Paul McGee for D Reynolds, 70 mins; Rian Brady for D Brady, 70 mins.

LOUTH: Craig Lynch; Padraig Rath, John Bingham, Kurt Murphy; James Stewart, Darren McMahon, Anthony Williams; James Califf, Andy McDonnell; Ruairi Moore, Paraic Smith, Bevan Duffy; Patrick Reilly, Eoin O’Connor, Jim McEneaney. Subs: Declan Byrne for J Stewart, 28 mins; Adrian Reid for K Murphy, 37 mins; Tommy Durnin for P Smith, 40 mins; Ryan Burns for R Moore, 40 mins; Gerard McSorley for J McEneaney, 45 mins; Derek Crilly for J Califf, 55 mins.

REFEREE: Noel Mooney (Cavan).

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