Two injury time goals from Eire Óg corner forward Simon Rea sealed a famous win for Carlow as they defeated Longford for the first time in the Leinster Championship since 1977, 4-15 to 1-16, in Tullamore today. New boss Luke Dempsey will now see his side face provincial champions Laois on May 30.
In a game that saw the sides level five times in the opening period, two goals in two minutes opened the scoring floodgates after the restart. Carlow skipper Mark Carpenter had his 42nd minute goal cancelled out by Longford free-taker Padraig Davis barely sixty seconds later. Having gone three points down inside the first five minutes of the second half, Longford rallied back to within a score on 65 minutes with burly full forward Niall Sheridan in imperious form under the high ball.
However, Carlow responded with Patrick Hickey, making his senior championship debut, and Rea firing three late goals past helpless Longford 'keeper Gavin Tonra.
21-year-old Rea traded early frees with Jamesie Martin before Hickey, scorer of 5-14 in O'Byrne and league competition this season, pointed from 35 metres. Longford centre fielder Liam Keenan then stroked over from all of 49 metres in the ninth minute to draw the sides level. Following a foul on Carpenter, Rea pointed again with centre half back John Hayden racing sixty metres to send Carlow 0-04 to 0-03 in front, these points coming either side of a Davis free.
Paul Barden levelled in the 18th minute to make up for four early wides from Longford. A brace from midfielders Mark Brennan and Thomas Walsh and a score from veteran Johnny Nevin saw Carlow go three points clear, but Longford saw in the break 0-07 apiece with Padraig Davis adding two late frees and Barden finding his range from 40 metres.
Trevor Smullen and the rampant Carpenter traded early points after the restart, but a succession of Carlow scores from Brian Carbery, Nevin and Palatine half back Joe Byrne saw them 0-11 to 0-08 in front. Carpenter got on the end of a dropping ball from midfielder Walsh to fist the ball around Tonra on 42 minutes to fashion a six-point lead for Carlow, but Longford immediately replied as Sheridan eluded his marker Stephen O'Brien to offload for Davis who slammed low past Carlow 'keeper James Clarke.
It was game on for Longford then as two frees from Davis and Barden on 47 and 48 minutes kept them in the hunt. Carlow full forward Sean Kavanagh began to impress on the game and two quick scores from him, and a third Barden free maintained Carlow's advantage at 1-12 to 1-10.
Longford reduced that lead to one point with Davis taking his tally to 1-06 with two more frees and Sheridan pointing on 55 and 67 minutes for a 1-15 to 1-14 deficit. Carlow, meanwhile, had kept their heads above water with Rea, substitute Brian Kelly and Kavanagh on target.
Hickey found the Longford net with two minutes remaining to give Carlow some breathing space following an excellent pass from Carpenter. Longford replied through Davis but the excellent distribution of Carpenter saw Rea finish the first of his goals off, after the Carlow skipper had mopped up a loose ball. Two minutes into injury time, Rea completed the rout with his second goal with Sheridan's final point meaningless.
Filed by Shane Murray