Longford's great comeback, Louth's late win and a super Galway display; JOE's Championship 2012 round-up
Westmeath dumping Antrim out in the hurling yesterday was a shock. We had a few more today, led by a brilliant Longford comeback against Laois.
The first really big day of Championship 2012 saw five football games down for decision, with all four provinces getting in on the action.
But the highlight of the day was the victory of Longford over Laois. Despite romping through Division 3, and Laois dropping out of Division 1, Glenn Ryan’s team were the underdogs in this one but in front of a passionate crowd at Pearse Park, Longford performed heroics to land their first Leinster Championship win since 2007.
Initially the game was going to the prepared script. Laois took an early lead and it took until the 16th minute for Longford to score, when Paul Barden pointed. But that was only a small bump in the road as the Laois machine, led by Colm Begley and Billy Sheehan, went in well in front at half-time, 0-9 to 0-3.
But Ryan must have given one hell of a team talk as Longford were a different prospect in the second half. They got a perfect start when Paul Barden (above) netted and then Laois lost Ross Munnelly to injury.
The former AFL star Michael Quinn, with David Barden, were magnificent for Longford and they drove the home team on to a superb second-half display. Sean McCormack started to find his range and, at the same time, Laois lost theirs.
In the end Longford outscored Laois 1-7 to 0-3 in the second half to win 1-10 to 0-12. There was a late scare when Padraic Clancy nabbed a goal but the referee correctly interpreted the new square ball rule to cancel it out.
Longford roll on to face familiar foe Wexford on June 3, and we now know who Dublin will play on the same day as they begin the defence of their title.
Louth, in another dramatic comeback, beat Westmeath in Navan. The Wee County trailed for much of the game but a very late goal by Daniel O’Connor sends Louth back to Croke Park to take on the Dubs on a scoreline of 2-9 to 0-14.
In Ulster, Donegal also began the long road back to success with a win as they overcame Cavan in the preliminary round of the Ulster championship. Despite the absence of Michael Murphy to injury, Donegal found scores easy to come by and they eventually racked up an impressive 1-16.
We’re sure that manager Jim McGuinness won’t be too pleased they conceded 1-10, much higher than last year’s average against the Tir Chonaill men, but perhaps we will now see a looser, and more attacking Donegal side in 2012. Time will tell.
Some suspected that we would have another shock in Connacht, as Alan Mulholland’s Galway were seen as potentially vulnerable to Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park.
In the end, the shock was never on. The visitors were in super form, playing in the stylish manner that Galway do so well when they’re on song.
The Rossies were unlucky, losing the hugely influential midfielder Michael Finneran with less than 10 on the clock and a few seconds later Mark Hehir scored the game’s first goal for the Tribe. The die was cast.
Galway were pulling away and then a Paul Conroy goal after 20 minutes killed it as a contest. Roscommon plugged away but they were never in striking distance after that. Mulholland could bring on Michael Meehan and Padraic Joyce near the end and the two combined beautifully to tee up Gary Sice for a late third major.
In the end, Galway won 3-15 to 0-10, and if Galway can hit these heights on a consistent basis, Mayo have a big job ahead of them to retain their crown.
As for Munster, Limerick will take on Clare in the Munster semi-final after they dismissed Waterford in the Gaelic Grounds, 2-12 to 1-7.
Leinster Senior Football Championship first round
Louth 2-09 Westmeath 0-14
Longford 1-10 Laois 0-12
Connacht Senior Football Championship quarter-final
Galway 3-15 Roscommon 0-10
Munster Senior Football Championship quarter-final
Limerick 2-12 Waterford 0-07
Ulster Senior Football Championship first round
Donegal 1-16 Cavan 1-10