Longford progress beyond the first round of the Towns Cup thanks to a sparkling performance that saw them contain a bristly Tullamore attack, while showing some daring attacks themselves. Two tries and four penalties accounted for the home side’s tally which seen a full time score of 23 – 3.
A number of fresh faces made appearances for the men in black over the course of the 80 minutes suggesting that there is a bright future for this team, but the elder lemons were instrumental in ensuring that this was steered in the right direction throughout the course of the game.
Tullamore may have had a bigger pack, but overall Longford were the more mobile and skilful. As the contest wore on the home team ran the visitors ragged, and with a little more focus could have opened a wider gap.
The Offaly side played to their strengths early on engaging in a narrows game, but as the contest wore on Longford pulled them to places they did not want to go. Saying that this could have been more comprehensive win, does not to diminish the manner in which the home side commanded the performance.
The game was barely two minutes old when the ref had to stamp his authority on the contest. Longford fullback Ciaran Kennedy was in the air when an onrushing Tulamore player collided with him.
The visitor was shown a yellow card and although the penalty was just short of the halfway but Joe McGowna had a crack at the posts. The effort fell just short, but Longford were back on the attack almost immediately.
The numbers advantage was exploited when first centre, Colm Glynn, put in a sweet skip pass to hit Hubie Connolly. The hooker did a fine impression of a winger and sped along the the tramlines to leave sprinting cover in his wake.
Even though the try was scored as wide a possible McGowan stroked over the conversion. Six minutes in and the home side lead 10-00.
There followed a period of push pull as the Offaly men looked to shorten the spread. They spent a good five minutes inching their way into Longford territory, but home team defended well. Returning to the Tullamore half in the 16th minutes saw the arm go up for an offside infringement, but the penalty from about 40 metres out was too difficult to convert.
Four minutes later Longford got another go at the posts, this time Glynn had the shot, but the soft ground again stymied the effort, however Glynn then converted the next penalty to leave it 10-00.
In the 26th minute a little argy-bargy saw Dylan Quinn receive a sus beag. The prop’s indiciplin gave the visiting kicker, Conor Hegarty, a crack at the posts. Hegarty made the most of the opportunity and shortened the gap to 10-03.
Tullamore had been strong in the scrum in the early exchanges, and an overhaul of the front row did little to disrupt the flow, but it was the breaks by Longford from Benny McManus, Hubie Connolly, Paul Gallogly, Ruadhan McDonnell and Derek Farrell that were grabbing the attention.
Tullamore took advantage of the extra man at scrum time and pushed Longford back, but were not able to get any more advantage in open play. A great break by the visitors saw some swift tracking back to putting pressure on the attack. A pass that was at the the very best flat stuck, but at the winger dived for the line he lost the ball forward and saved Longford blushes.
The half time break came and went and two minutes into the second half Glynn nosed his side further ahead with his boot 13-03.
A little flurry of brilliance by McManus split the Tullamore line, this was augmented by McDonnell and when the ball came out the back line Glynn delivered a crisp little pass to McGowan who step set the defenders and seared through the defence. The conversion brought the tally to 20-03.
As the game wound down things started to open up a bit. Just as it looked as if the visitors would get a consolation for their journey a text book tap tackle by Gallogly halted the progress.
Much of the remaining time was spent in the visitors half, and another penalty pushed them further ahead on 23-03. Longford will be happy with the win. As a first round cup outing it was tough, but they looked comfortable and many of the younger players made valuable contribution.
Longford will have a tough task ahead of them in the second round. Clondalking will have a home advantage on Sunday the 19th February.