Laois 0-14 Longford 0-09

Updated: Thursday, 14 Jun 2007 15:51

Longford's David Barden is closed down by Joe Higgins of Laois
Longford's David Barden is closed down by Joe Higgins of Laois


Laois came to the fore in the second half of tonight's Leinster SFC quarter-final at Tullamore, overhauling Longford for a 0-14 to 0-09 victory and a place in the provincial semi-finals.

Helped by the shooting of Michael Tierney (0-04) and Padraig Clancy (0-02), the O'Moore men triumphed against a Longford side that finished with a galling wides tally of 15.

Brian Kavanagh's 0-04 haul saw Longford take a one-point lead in at the break – 0-06 to 0-05. They moved 0-08 to 0-05 ahead, but the turning point came in the 57th minute.

Longford substitute Padraig Berry had a goal ruled out and Laois took their cue, scoring five of the game's final six points to book their place in Leinster’s last-four.

Laois had to alter their team before the throw-in as former All-Star Tom Kelly failed a fitness test on a groin injury, meaning Cathal Ryan was moved across to full-back and Aidan Fennelly was drafted in at right corner-back.

Helped by a brisk wind, Longford nabbed an early lead but it was Laois who almost catapulted themselves ahead with a first-minute goal.

Liam Kearns' men hit the woodwork twice within the opening 40 seconds with Ross Munnelly cracking his initial shot off an upright and then left-footing off the crossbar from a tighter angle.

Brian McCormack also watched his fourth-minute shot narrowly miss Damien Sheridan's far post, but while Longford meandered into a 0-04 to 0-00 lead, Laois always looked capable of pegging them back.

Brian Kavanagh's ability to win and point frees was key as Longford hit the front. The 20-year-old corner-forward, who operated in a two-man full-forward line alongside David Barden, sent over four frees in the opening half.

Longford's interval advantage could and should have had added cushion, but Kavanagh missed two kickable placed balls in injury-time, moving his side’s wides tally to a frustrating ten.

Although they were struggling to keep tabs on Kavanagh, Laois came more and more into the game as the half progressed.

After Paddy Dowd, who rocketed over a shot from the right, and Kevin Mulligan, who fisted over after being set up by David Barden, had nudged Longford four points clear, Laois finally opened their account.

It was all of 20 minutes before Noel Garvan chipped in with Laois' opening point. A good interchange between the half-forwards led to half-back Padraig McMahon pointing and a Brian McDonald free cut Longford's advantage to 0-04 to 0-03.

The sides were level on 26 minutes when Munnelly pointed on the rebound after a Paul Lawlor shot had cannoned back off the crossbar.

Kavanagh and Tierney then exchanged frees before the former sent Luke Dempsey’s side in at the break, one point to the good, by angling over his lengthiest free of the tie.

Cheered on by the boisterous travelling support, Longford made a business-like start to the second half with the Barden brothers, Paul and David, both pointing within six minutes of the resumption.

However, as the rain began to fall, Laois increased the tempo and their forward unit began to click as they registered the next four points with 'Beano' McDonald (free), livewire Tierney, who sent over a point from play and a well-struck free, and skipper Clancy, who blazed over from distance, rallying their blue-shirted team mates.

Then came the moment which Dempsey and his management team will pore over in their video analysis.

David Barden launched a high ball into the square from wide out on the left, Laois goalkeeper Fergal Byron looked to have it covered but Longford's Berry brilliantly rose highest to punch the ball to the net.

A goal then and Longford would have retaken the lead at 1-08 to 0-09, yet referee Vincent Neary ruled the effort out for an infringement.

The decision broke Longford hearts but seemingly gave another jolt to the Laois attack as Tierney, Chris Conway, Clancy, Lawlor and McCormack all fired over points in the closing quarter-hour.

Free-taker Kavanagh did reduce the gap for a time to 0-12 to 0-09. However, Laois had found an extra gear by then and, despite a sluggish start, their second half display was enough to see them through to a June 24 meeting against either Louth, Wicklow or Wexford.

Laois: F Byron; A Fennelly, C Ryan, J Higgins; P McMahon (0-01), D Rooney, B McCormack (0-01); B Quigley, N Garvan (0-01); R Munnelly (0-01), C Conway (0-01), P Clancy (capt) (0-02); M Tierney (0-04, 2f), P Lawlor (0-01), B McDonald (0-02, 2f).

Subs used: P O'Leary for Fennelly (42 mins), B Sheehan for Garvan (52), C Parkinson for Munnelly (69).

Longford: D Sheridan (capt); D Brady, D Masterson, D Reilly; S Mulligan, D Hannify, N Farrell; B McElvaney, L Keenan; T Smullen, P Barden (0-01), P Dowd (0-01); D Barden (0-01), K Mulligan (0-01), B Kavanagh (0-05, 5f).

Subs used: P Berry for Dowd (56 mins), N Sheridan for Mulligan (61), J Martin for Smullen (63), K Smith for Keenan (69).

Referee: Vincent Neary (Mayo).