Longford’s love-affair with the qualifiers continued as they sent Louth crashing out of the championship at the Gaelic Grounds this evening, writes Caoimhin Reilly.

Denis Connerton’s men trailed only once as they continued their record of breaching the first-qualifier hurdle in each of the past nine seasons.

Robbie Smyth was in fine form for the winners, hitting seven-points before the forward was harshly dismissed for a second bookable offence in the second-half.

Louth’s misery was to be compounded with Tommy Durnin, Patrick Reilly and Ryan Burns all receiving red-cards for petulant acts of play.

With the breeze at their backs, Longford started the brighter and should have had a goal inside four-minutes when half-back Michael Quinn blazed over after Smyth had played him through.

The latter added a second point for the visitors in a subsequent attack before James Califf opened Louth’s account from a free on 14 minutes.

The Wee County upped their tempo thereafter and reeled off three of the next four points with Califf scoring twice.

Although, Louth were to score only once in the remaining 13 minutes of the first-half as the Midlanders, cheered on by the large away following, penetrated a lethargic-looking home rear-guard.

James McGivney’s free preceded points from Liam Connerton, Barry Gilleran and three-points from Smyth, the last of which saw the Abbeylara man strike a wonderful score from a sideline kick.

Leading nine points to five at the break, Longford raced out of the blocks early in the second period with Connerton scoring the game’s first major from a penalty after Anthony Williams had been penalised for touching the ball along the ground.

Colin Kelly was forced into four changes early in the second-half with Ryan Burns and Tommy Durnin among those introduced. Burns made an immediate impact in cutting the gap to six with a well-taken point.

Eoin O’Connor then found the back of the net for the hosts after a flowing team move as the comeback looked on. However, Longford were to curtail the home team’s fightback with a fine point from Dessie Reynolds coming before Smyth (2) and James McGivney pushed them seven-points ahead from placed-balls.

A 63rd minute goal from Barry McKeon put the gloss on the victory as Louth bowed out of the championship in miserable circumstances.

Louth: C. Lynch; P. Rath, J. Bingham (0-02), K. Murphy; A. Williams, D. McMahon, J. Stewart (0-01); J. Califf (0-03, 0-02 frees), A. McDonnell; R. Moore, P. Smith, B. Duffy; P. Reilly, E. O’Connor (1-0), J. McEneaney (0-01)

Subs: Declan Byrne for J. Stewart (29), Adrian Reid for K. Murphy (37), Tommy Durnin (0-01) for P. Smith (40), Ryan Burns (0-03, 0-02 free) for R. Moore (40), Gerard McSorley for J. McEneaney (46),

Longford: P. Collum; D. Masterson, P McCormack, D. Brady; M. Quinn (0-01), D. McElligott, B. Gilleran (0-01); J. Keegan (0-01), D. McGivney (0-02, 0-02 frees); D. Reynolds (0-01), J. McGivney, D. Mimnagh; R. Smyth (0-07, 0-04 frees, 0-01 sideline), L. Connerton (1-01, 1-00 pen), B. McKeon (1-00)

Subs: Andrew Farrell for B. Gilleran (61), Larry Moran (0-01) for J. McGivney (64), Conor Berry for D. McGivney (67), Cian Farrelly for B. McKeon (70), Paul McGee for D. Reynolds (70), Rian Brady for D. Brady (70)

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)