O’Byrne Cup Final
LONGFORD 1-12 OFFALY 0-11
By Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore (courtesy of gaa.ie)
20 years ago the current Longford management team of Padraic Davis, Donal Ledwith and Paul Barden, as well as goalkeeping coach Gavin Tonra, were all part of the county team that beat Westmeath by 2-6 to 0-7 in front of nearly 10,000 supporters in Cusack Park in Mullingar to win the O’Byrne Cup for the second time.
20 years later they watched as a strong second half performance from their charges secured their third ever triumph, with a Michael Quinn goal after 16 minutes the key turning point in a closely-fought encounter at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
It was a result that looked highly unlikely in the early stages of the contest when Offaly played far more incisive attacking football, with Bernard Allen (twice), Anton Sullivan and Shane Horan all on the scoresheet as they moved 0-4 to 0-1 in front. Longford were getting on their fair share of ball, but they struggled to carve out space close to goal and were guilty of a number of poor wides.
Out of nowhere, a seemingly innocuous possession for Quinn, close to the end line and with his back to goal, turned into a crucial play as he turned, burst through a tackler and while holding off another, placed a low shot under Paddy Dunican for the game’s only goal.
Offaly continued to play the better football and struck the next two points, but they were rocked again when Quinn drove through on goal and Shane Nally was forced to drag him down, conceding the free and drawing a black card for his foul.
Longford used the extra man well and created a series of good chances before half time, though they only took one, a free from Rian Brady to send the sides into the dressing room level.
Brady had two glorious goal chances into the bargain, crashing one off the crossbar and finding Dunican too good with another, and while Longford were given another boost when Anton Sullivan was also black carded.
It seemed as if their window of opportunity had passed when they scored the first point of the second half but conceded the next two to fall 0-8 to 1-4 behind with both teams now back up to 15 men, but they got a huge contribution off the bench with Darragh Doherty and Peter Lynn firing 0-3 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.
Scorers for 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.
Scorers for Offaly: Bernard Allen 0-5 (0-2f), Anton Sullivan 0-3, Shane Horan 0-2, Aaron Leavy 0-1.
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum; Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Barry O’Farrell; Iarla O’Sullivan, Gary Rogers, Colm P Smyth; Darren Gallagher, Kevin Diffley; Dessie Reynolds, Daniel Mimnagh, Michael Quinn; Rian Brady, Oran Kenny, Joseph Hagan. Subs: Peter Lynn for O’Sullivan (half-time), Darragh Doherty 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; Anton Sullivan, Bernard Allen, Rúairí McNamee. Subs: Declan Hogan for Nally (half-time), Cian Johnson for C McNamee (44), Aaron Leavy for Brazil (51), Ciaran Donnelly (Bracknagh) for Donohue (54), Cian Farrell (Edenderry) for R McNamee (60).
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois)