GAELIC FOOTBALL

Tipperary footballers looking nervously over their shoulders after another defeat

Bill Maher

Tipperary’s Bill Maher races away from Longford’s Liam Connerton before playing a pass during Sunday’s Allianz National Football League game in Longford - Picture: Declan Gilmore

Tipperary’s relegation fears have increased after they suffered their third defeat in Division Three of the Allianz National Football League, losing to Longford in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford last Sunday.

The result leaves Tipperary third from the bottom of the table, on three points, with games to come against Offaly at home on March 15 and away to Leitrim on the following Sunday, March 22.

Longford, meanwhile, produced a strong second half performance to get back on track in the division and keep their promotion hopes alive.

It was a third home victory in the current league campaign for the midlanders and while just a single point (2-4 to 1-6) separated the sides at the break, wind-assisted Longford got on top in the second half to win by the comfortable margin of five points.

The turning point was the black card dismissal of Tipperary’s half-time substitute Liam Boland early in the second half and Longford made great use of the extra man advantage during the ten minute sin bin period  to open up a significant gap.

A glorious spell for the home side yielded 1-4 without reply, with Oran Kenny scoring a cracking goal after receiving the perfect pass from Liam Connerton in the 55th minute. 

That put the home team in a commanding 3-7 to 1-6 lead and they never looked like letting victory slip from their grasp, despite a determined Tipperary revival. 

Longford went eight points clear when defender Gary Rogers shot over the bar just after Kenny planted the ball in the back of the net but the visitors (back to 15 players) were given a glimmer of hope with a goal from a penalty converted by their chief marksman Conor Sweeney in the 58th minute, following a foul on Steven O’Brien. 

Longford hit back with a point apiece from Oran Kenny and Rian Brady (free) to consolidate their firm grip on the game but there were some anxious moments for the home supporters when substitute Kevin O’Halloran scored Tipperary’s third goal in the 65th minute, following a well-worked move, with Robbie Kiely providing the final pass.  

When they landed a point in the 70th minute, Tipp were only trailing by 3-10 to 3-7 and in with a shout of completing a remarkable recovery.

However Longford refused to panic and made absolutely certain of the win with points from Darren Gallagher (free) and Oran Kenny deep into stoppage time.

Another outstanding display from  midfielder Darren Gallagher (who fired over four points) played a major part in this success and another key figure Michael Quinn came a lot more into the game to make a big impact in the second half.

Rrising young star Oran Kenny shot 1-2 in quality scores.

Minus regular defender Colm P Smyth (flu), who was replaced on the starting team by Gerard Flynn, Longford got off to a flying start, with Daniel Mimnagh putting Liam Connerton through for a very well-taken goal in the 4th minute. 

Fine points followed from Darren Gallagher and Donal McElligott before Tipperary got their opening score from a free converted by Conor Sweeney in the 13th minute.

A few minutes earlier Sean O’Connor had gone close to scoring a goal for the visitors, only to be denied by Paddy Collum, who got a vital touch to keep his net intact. 

Under pressure Tipp ‘keeper Evan Comerford did not deal with a dipping shot from Mimnagh in the 17th minute but recovered to clear the danger when a goal might have materialised, before Longford were then caught out in a quick counter-attack. 

Midfielder Steven O’Brien raced through to set up a goal chance for Sweeney and he flicked the ball to the net from a few yards out to close the gap to the minimum of margins, 1-2 to 1-1. 

A point apiece (frees) were then exchanged between Gallagher and Sweeney before Dessie Reynolds pounced to score a second goal for Longford in the 24th minute. 

Reynolds’ initial effort, after latching on to a pass from Mimnagh, was well saved by the Tipp ‘keeper Comerford but the Longford player found the back of the net with his second attempt from close range. 

That should have been a big boost for Longford but they lost their way in the closing stages of the first half, as Tipperary fired over four points - a brace from chief marksman Sweeney (free and play), with debutant Padraic Looram and Sean O’Connor also on target. 

The best Longford could do was a brilliant score from who else but Darren Gallagher in the 30th minute and nine minutes of the second half had elapsed with no further score, at which stage Tipperary suffered the significant setback of losing Liam Boland to a black card and playing with 14 men for ten minutes.

That was the signal for Longford to settle the issue, as they added another 1-8 to their tally during the remainder of this entertaining match, with Tipperary scoring 2-1 and now in danger of relegation following this latest defeat. 

Longford: Paddy Collum (0-1 free); Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Barry O’Farrell; Donal McElligott (0-1), Gary Rogers (0-1), Gerard Flynn; Darren Gallagher (0-4, 2  frees), Kevin Diffley; Michael Quinn, Daniel Mimnagh, Dessie Reynolds (1-0); Rian Brady (0-3, all frees), Liam Connerton (1-0), Oran Kenny (1-2).

Subs: Darragh Doherty for G Flynn (55 minutes); Joseph Hagan for R Brady (70 minutes). 

Tipperary: Evan Comerford; Alan Campbell, John Meagher, Tadhg Fitzgerald; Padraic Looram (0-1), Robbie Kiely, Bill Maher; Steven O’Brien, Conal Kennedy; Emmet Moloney, Jack Kennedy, Brian Fox; Conor Sweeney (2-4, 1-0  penalty, 0-3 frees), Sean O’Connor (0-1), Riain Quigley. 

Subs: Liam Boland (0-1) for C Kennedy (half-time); Philip Austin for P Looram (43 minutes); Kevin O’Halloran (1-0) for S O’Connor (48 minutes); Jack Harney for B Maher (61 minutes); Alan Moloney for R Quigley (64 minutes). 

Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).  

For more Tipperary sport read Great competition at Community Games County Swimming finals