GAA round-up: Longford shock Dublin in O'Byrne Cup
Meath and Longford will clash in next Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup final for only the second time in their history after the midland minnows pulled off a shock win over the defending title holders and All-Ireland champions Dublin.
The Royals, meanwhile, survived a late rally from Louth in Drogheda to secure a place in the tournament decider for the first time since 2014 – they last won the competition in 2006.
But it was Division 3 side Longford that grabbed all the headlines with their sensational win over the Dubs in front of their own fans at Pearse Park.
Dublin fielded seven of their All-Ireland winning side including team captain Stephen Cluxton, Jonny Cooper, Philly McMahon and Paddy Andrews but they were always struggling against Longford who operated a solid defensive system with Dermot Brady proving an effective sweeper.
Crucially, they avoided conceding goals and led 0-7 to 0-4 at the break.
They had stretched their advantage to 9-6 before Dublin finally got some traction to narrow the gap to a single point.
But Longford again stretched their lead to three points before Liam Connerton’s goal sealed a famous win.
There was no repeat of what happened in Longford’s last appearance in the O’Byrne Cup final in 2008 when on the cusp of a famous win over Dublin they conceded two late goals to Jason Sherlock and lost.
Longford’s only wins in the tournament came in 1965 and 2000 – they lost to Meath 1983. Regardless of how they fare against the Royals this victory will boost the confidence of Denis Connerton’s side.
In their last clash against the Dubs in the Leinster quarter-final last summer Longford endured a humiliating 27-point hammering and conceded four goals.
Even allowing for the fact that Dublin were well below strength, the result will add weight to the argument that the All-Ireland title holders are not as formidable a force on their road trips.
In contrast there were no surprises in the McKenna Cup semi-finals with Tyrone staying on course to win the trophy for the fifth season on the spin.
A second-half goal from Connor McAliskey set them on the road to victory over Fermanagh.The dismissal of Fermanagh’s most influential player Eoin Donnelly on two yellow cards marked a turning point in the contest.
Meanwhile, in the other tie a converted first half penalty from Ryan Bell – a late replacement on the Derry team – set Damian Barton’s side up for a comfortable win over Cavan who secured a late consolation goal from Killian Clarke.
Finalists Tyrone and Derry will now meet in four competitive matches in the first half of 2016.
They have already clashed in an earlier round of the tournament; they will meet in the final as well as in Division 2 of the League and the Ulster quarter-final.
New Mayo boss Stephen Rochford experienced his first bad day at the office.
Not alone did his side lose at home to Roscommon – jointly managed, of course, by ex-Mayo player Kevin McStay, but Keith Higgins (knee) and Kevin Keane (shoulder) had to be replaced during the goalless contest.
Roscommon now advance to the final where they meet Galway who, as expected, accounted for GMIT which meant that Leitrim’s excellent home win over Sligo counted for nothing.
The two dead rubbers in the McGrath Cup produced away wins for Kerry and Waterford respectively.
In hurling James Gorman was the local hero in Birr as Offaly celebrated the return of inter county hurling to St Brendan’s Park for the first time in nine years with a thumping six-point win over All-Ireland title holders Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup.
The Cats fielded only a handful of senior players but having drawn level in the final quarter they were hit with a late hat-trick of goals from Gorman.
The Faithful County will now meet Wexford in the semi-final of the tournament.
Dublin and Galway will clash in the other penultimate tie after their expected wins over Laois and Westmeath respectively.
In the Munster senior league Clare and Limerick hammered Waterford and Cork respectively despite being away from home.
But Limerick's victory was overshadowed by the announcement from team boss TJ Ryan that 2013 Munster winning captain Donal O'Grady had retired from inter county hurling.
McKenna Cup semi-finals:
Tyrone 1-13; Fermanagh 0-10
Derry 1-17; Cavan 1-10
O'Byrne Cup semi-finals:
Longford 1-12 Dublin 0-9
Meath 0-11; Louth 0-10
FBD SFL round 3
NUIG 4-10; IT Sligo 0-6
Roscommon 0-13 Mayo 0-10
Leitrim 1-11 Sligo 1-6
Galway 0-16 GMIT 1-5
McGrath Cup round 3
Kerry 0-16; Tipperary 0-10
Waterford 2-7; Limerick 0-7
Walsh Cup round 3
Offaly 3-9 Kilkenny 1-9
Dublin 2-20, Laois 1-9
Wexford 1-21; Carlow 0-7
Meath 2-16; IT Carlow 1-12
Galway 3-18; Westmeath 0-17
DCU 1-20; NUIG 1-20
Munster SHL round 4
Limerick 3-17; Cork 0-18
Clare 1-20; Waterford 1-9