TWO second-half goals for Longford proved decisive as the Laois minor footballers bowed out of the Leinster Championship last Wednesday.
The sides were level at half-time and Laois looked well placed to push on and win the game as they held a man advantage after Longford’s Jason Earley was sent off midway through the first-half.
However in front of the small crowd in Pearse Park, the home side came out strongly after the break and a goal from Larry Moran three minutes after the restart and two quick-fire points put them in the driving seat.
Laois did well to drag themselves back into the game but a second goal ten minutes from time put the home side back in the driving seat. Again George Doyle’s side continued to battle and a goal from Paul Kingston directly from a free got them back within a goal however time ran out before they could manufacture a second equalising goal.
Longford now go on to face Dublin in the quarter-final and while Laois put in a far better performance than their first outing against Wicklow, the sun has now set on their 2012 campaign. Over the course of the game Longford scored 2-6 from play while the majority of Laois’s scores, a total of 1-6, came from frees.
Longford started brightly and came close to finding the back of the net inside two minutes when Ciaran Mallon’s powerful drive cracked off the underside of the crossbar, bounced on the line before eventually being cleared.
The sides exchanged points throughout the first half and they eventually went to the break level at five points apiece. The half was punctuated by the sending off of Longford centre-back Jason Earley but despite that handicap, the home side were able to keep pace and in fact created more chances in the opening half hour.
As well as their five points, Longford also had six wides while Laois were far more accurate only kicking two wides in the opening half. Full-forward Evan O’Carroll fired over two early points for the visitors while frees from Eoin Lowry and two from Paul Kingston were Laois’ other scores in the half.
For the home side Rory Connor slotted over two frees, Aidan McElligott pointed from long range while Larry Moran and David McGivney were also on target for the home side in a tight opening half hour.
It was all to play for in the second-half and a fast start to the period was always going to be vital and it was the home side who jumped out into an early lead.
Rory Connor and Larry Moran were the duo who did the damage combining well to open up the Laois defence and it was Moran who applied the finish to the back of the net to put daylight between the sides for the first time in the game. With Laois reeling, the 14 men of Longford added two further points, one apiece from Rory Connor and Liam Moran to move five points ahead within as many minutes of the restart.
To their credit Laois stuck to their task and they dragged themselves right back into the game as they picked off the next four points to get back within one.
Evan O’Carroll started the scoring run while top scorer Paul Kingston added two frees to reduce the gap further. A superb score from Dean Cullen right on the midway point of the half got Laois back within a point and at this stage the momentum was firmly on their side. They had chances to get level and had they done so, there could easily have been a different outcome to the game.
As it was, the Longford defence blocked three scoring attempts in the same attack and their forwards took full advantage scoring two quick-fire points to extend their lead back to three points.
The hammer blow was then struck ten minutes from time when Liam Connerton raced through to fire home his side’s second goal. Liam Moran added a point and suddenly from being just one behind, Laois found themselves seven points adrift with time running out.
Again they showed great resilience and after pointing a free, Paul Kingston went one better and drilled the next free to the back of the net. That got Laois back to within a goal but time was against them and they couldn’t find the equaliser that would have forced extra-time.
Longford: Larry Moran 1-3, Liam Connerton 1-0, Rory Connor 0-4f, David McGivney 0-1, Aidan McElligott 0-1, Ross McNerney 0-1
Laois: Paul Kingston 1-5f, Evan O’Carroll 0-3, Dean Cullen 0-1, Eoin Lowry 0-1f
LONGFORD: Colm Farrell; Martin Mulligan, Cian Farrelly, John Gill; Shane Clarke, Jason Earley, Liam Sullivan; Aidan McElligott, Timmy Jackson; Ciaran Mallon, David McGivney, Andrew Dalton; Larry Moran, Rory Connor, Ross McNerney. Subs: Liam Connerton for T Jackson (half-time); Killian Farrell for C Mallon (43 mins); Gary Connell for L Sullivan (47 mins); Brian Walsh for D McGivney (55 mins).
LAOIS: Adam O’Reilly; Jamie Bartley, Conor Dunne, Rory C Fennell; Martin Scully, Ciaran McEvoy, Rob Dowling; James Nerney, Dean Mahon; Niall Mullins, Paul Kingston, Donnacha O’Reilly; Eoin Lowry (0-1, free), Evan O’Carroll, Dean Cullen. Subs: Mark Lyons for D O’Reilly (23 mins); Nigel Murphy for R Fennell (35 mins); Conor Hogan for R Dowling (35 mins); James Moore for E Lowry (41 mins); Niall Brennan for N Mullins (54 mins).
Referee: David Fedigan (Louth).