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WATCH: Wexford relish first U-21 Leinster football title

Longford denied their own piece of history despite frantic finish.

Wexford's Liam Og McGovern and Paudie Kelly celebrate after the game.
Wexford's Liam Og McGovern and Paudie Kelly celebrate after the game.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

WEXFORD HAD TO survive a ferocious late onslaught to see off Longford and claim their first ever Leinster U-21 football crown in Portlaoise last night.

With both sides seeking their inaugural win in a competition stretching back to 1964 there was always going to be drama here and despite Wexford looking the better side for most of the game, Longford have made a habit of being unwilling to go easily and continued that trend here in front of a crowd of over 3,000.

When Longford pulled level with just under 10 minutes left it looked as if another comeback miracle was on the cards. But Wexford steadied and man of the match and midfielder Michael O’Regan provided a steadying hand.

Despite opening the scoring through the talented JJ Matthews, Longford struggled to get more ball up to their danger men. Instead it was a physically stronger Wexford who were soon dominating.

After a sixth minute goal was disallowed Wexford made no mistake in the 11th minute when an O’Grady shot was well saved by Patrick Collum but the ball wasn’t cleared and was bundled in by Killian Kehoe – son of team manager Kevin.

Fast-paced ball carrying wing back Conor Carty kept Wexford on the front foot, while poor option taking from pressurised Longford defenders kept them under pressure.

But despite their dominance Wexford were unable to open a commanding lead and Longford, not for the first time in this campaign, clung desperately on – thanks to inspirational scores from Matthews and Robbie Smith.

Late scores from Killian Kehoe and Michael O’Regan left the Model County 1-5 to 0-5 in front.

Wexford got another crucial break at the start of the second half when Paudie Kelly raced inside and despite illegally hopping the ball twice in a row was allowed to continue and score a point.

JJ Matthews continued to kick inspirational scores for Longford but they struggled to get enough ball past midfield, while at the other end Wexford wing forward Paudie Kelly grew in influence.

Late rally

But just as it seemed Wexford were turning the screw Longford pulled the match back level with 10 to go through Keegan, McGivney and Smith as they swamped out Michael O’Regan in the middle and began to sweep onto breaks.

It would have been easy for Wexford to lose their composure but they impressively recovered to kick crucial scores through Kent and O’Regan to make history and be the eighth team on the roll of honour.

On balance it was no more than they deserved.

They played an open and stylish brand of football and looked far more comfortable on the ball than Longford who weere too reliant on a handful of key men.

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WEXFORD: R Farrell; M Furlong, S Gaule, J Breen; D Butler, J Leacy, C Carty (0-1); M O’Hanlon, M O’Regan (0-2,1f); L Og McGovern, E Kent (0-1), P Kelly (0-3); K O’Grady (0-2:1f), K Kehoe (1-0), B Halpin. Subs: D Murphy for Halpin 41, T Rossitter for Kehoe 55, B O’Gorman for K O’Grady 60,

LONGFORD: P Collum; J Carroll, F Battrim, A Quinn; S Mahon, CP Smith, D Cooney; K Diffley (0-1), J Keegan (0-1); P McCormack, J McGivney (0-2f), M Mulvey; R Smith (0-4,1f), D Gallagher, JJ Matthews (0-3). Subs: J Noonan for D Gallagher 21, F Reilly for Mahon 53,

Ref: G McCormack (Dublin). Att: 3,123

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