Leitrim put up their best performance of the year when they deservedly defeated Longford in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday in the Lory Meagher Losers play-off game for a place in the competition’s semi-final against Fermanagh.
Leitrim 2-18 Longford 3-11
The first half of Sunday’s Pearse Park hurling encounter was an evenly matched affair with the sides finishing level at halftime. But Leitrim’s bright start to the second half proved to be their key to eventual success when they outgunned Longford with five points without reply in the opening seven minutes.
Following this purple patch Leitrim never relinquished their lead and forced Longford to play second fiddle for the remainder of the action. Longford’s mission was not helped in the second half when they were reduced to 14 players following Stephen Connolly’s dismissal after he picked up his second yellow card in the 50th minute.
After suffering a heavy 25 points drubbing by Tyrone in their first game and a seven points defeat by Warwickshire in their next outing, Leitrim regrouped and showed a lot of character when overcoming Longford and claiming a place in the competition semi-final against Fermanagh next Saturday.
John Newman opened Longford’s account with a point from play within 14 seconds of the throw in but Leitrim levelled two minutes later when Niall McLoughlin hit over a point. Rory Donnellan edged Longford back in front but McLoughlin levelled again within 60 seconds.
Leitrim took the lead for the first time in the game when Clement Cunniffe slotted over a 6th minute free and Semaco Moradi doubled that advantage three minutes later. Longford fought back and got on level terms by the 12th minute with points from Thomas Roche & Newman. Five minutes later, Longford struck for the game’s first goal when Luke Kelly finished from close range with the ball going off keeper Tommy McLoughlin’s stick into the top of the net.
Cunniffe replied almost immediately with a free but Longford rattled home their second goal in the space of two minutes when Newman slipped his marker Vinny McDermott and drove to the net after getting onto ball that came in over the top.
Karl Murray stretched Longford’s advantage when he hit over a 19th minute point but Leitrim got right back into contention in the 22nd minute when Keith Boyle batted a ball to the back of the Longford net that had been dropped into the square from outfield.
Two minutes later, yellow cards were issued to Cunniffe and Longford’s Stephen Connolly who became entangled in an off-the-ball incident off the pitch beyond the home side’s end line. Cunniffe reduced Leitrim’s deficit to two points when he popped over a 25th minute free and McLoughlin made it a one point game seven minutes later.
Prior to the break, Longford’s John Newman was yellowed card for a foul Patrick McManus. A Michael Poniard point from play right on the stroke of halftime put the sides on level terms for the fourth time in the game on an interval score line Leitrim 1- 8 Longford 2-5.
After the restart Leitrim surged ahead when whipping over five unanswered points in the opening seven minutes of the second half. Cunniffe shot over three times from play and punished a foul on Moradi from a free while Niall McLoughlin also shot over from play.
After going 22 minutes without a score, Longford opened their second half account with Thomas Roche point from play on 43 minutes and an Eoin Donnellan point three minutes later reduced Leitrim’s lead to three points but Cunniffe answered Donnellan’s score with a two frees.
Longford was reduced to 14 men almost immediately when Stephen Connolly was sent off for a second yellow card offence. Leitrim pulled eight points clear of Longford when Clement Cunniffe hammered a 58th minute penalty into the onion sack.
Over the next nine minutes, Longford whittled three points off the Leitrim lead after Rory Donnellan shot over from play while Eoin Donnellan pointed a free and also found the target from play.
Leitrim replied with three points by the 67th minute when Cunniffe drove over a ‘65’ while sub Mark O’Donoghue and Niall McLoughlin whipped over a point apiece.
Longford’s Sean Browne hammed home a goal at the death when he caught the Leitrim defence somewhat knapping but still the visitors held out for a deserved four points win.