Offaly 0-11 Longford 1-12
Longford are the O’Byrne Cup winners for just the third time following a strong finish in Tullamore overpowering Offaly to give Padraic Davis’ side huge momentum going into the first round of the National League against Louth next Sunday.
These two counties had played each other ten times over the past five seasons in league and championship with Longford winning six and drawing one of those encounters, but it looked in the early stages as if the home side were going to strike one back as they played the better football, particularly close to goal where they carved out the better chances.
Bernard Allen (twice), Anton Sullivan and Shane Horan were all on the scoresheet as they moved 0-04 to 0-01 in front, with Offaly’s movement and link play causing huge problems for the visiting side.
Longford were competing well under the dropping ball in the battle for primary possession, but they struggled to eke out the same room up front and tried to shuffle the deck a few times in a bid to gain a foothold.
One temporary switch that proved crucial to the outcome of the game was moving Mickey Quinn to the inside forward line, as he picked up a ball on 16 minutes and burst through a tackle before finishing the ball to the net, drawing Longford level against the run of play.
That goal seemed to knock some of the confidence out of Offaly’s play and while they kicked the next two points, the pendulum swung back in Longford’s favour approaching half-time.
Oran Kenny and Rian Brady kicked points to draw them level, while Offaly centre-back Shane Nally was in the sin bin, and it could have been more as he also had two glorious goal chances.
Paddy Dunican denied his first effort while a second hammered into the crossbar and back into play, only for Kevin Diffley to follow up and also palm the ball onto the crossbar.
Early points for Bernard Allen and Anton Sullivan after half time suggested that Offaly might take advantage of their reprieve as they were now 0-08 to 1-04 to the good, having endured two ten-minute sin bins for Nally and Sullivan, but instead Longford moved into another gear and Offaly couldn’t compete.
Longford were boosted by Darragh Doherty and Peter Lynn coming off the bench to fire three points between them, while Darren Gallagher at midfield and Quinn at centre forward were now controlling key battle grounds and giving Longford a very solid platform on which to build.
Offaly were soon reduced to needing a goal and while they had a chance to snatch one from Shane Horan, the Kilmacud player pulled his shot wide of the target and Offaly’s chance to bridge a gap of over two decades since their last win in this competition had passed them by.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum; Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Barry O'Farrell; Iarla O'Sullivan, Gary Rogers, Colm P Smyth; Darren Gallagher (0-02, 0-01 free), Kevin Diffley; Dessie Reynolds (0-02), Daniel Mimnagh, Michael Quinn (1-01); Rian Brady (0-02, frees), Oran Kenny (0-02), Joseph Hagan.
Subs: Peter Lynn (0-01) for O’Sullivan (half-time), Darragh Doherty (0-02) for Diffley (44), Liam Connerton for Reynolds (67), Aidan McGuire (Carrickedmond) for Brady (70+1).
OFFALY: Paddy Dunican; David Dempsey, Eoin Rigney, Niall Darby; Cian Donohue, Shane Nally, Jordan Hayes; Cathal Mangan, Michael Brazil; Eoin Carroll, Conor McNamee, Shane Horan (0-02); Anton Sullivan (0-03), Bernard Allen (0-05, 0-02 frees), Rúairí McNamee.
Subs: Declan Hogan for Nally (half-time), Cian Johnson for C McNamee (44), Aaron Leavy (0-01) for Brazil (51), Ciaran Donnelly (Bracknagh) for Donohue (54), Cian Farrell (Edenderry) for R McNamee (60).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois)
Longford: Michael Quinn 1-1, Dessie Reynolds, Rian Brady (0-2f), Oran Kenny, Darren Gallagher (0-1f), Darragh Doherty 0-2 each, Peter Lynn 0-1.
Offaly: Bernard Allen 0-5 (0-2f), Anton Sullivan 0-3, Shane Horan 0-2, Aaron Leavy 0-1.