Longford 3-18 Fermanagh 2-21

In years to come, when memories are wrinkled, and these Fermanagh hurlers are old and grey and full of sleep-they will remember this balmy May day in Longford.

As the cigar-chomping ex-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said of the RAF in the early stages of World War Two: “This was their finest hour.”

Except in Fermanagh’s case, it was their finest 35 minutes as they came back from being thirteen points behind just before the break to snatching a dramatic draw and would have won it had the impressive Brian Teehan been awarded a penalty when he was fouled in the square in added time.

Super sub Danny Teague hit the leveller that made it crystal sure that Fermanagh will meet Longford in the Lory Meagher Cup final in Croke Park in two weeks.

But another Churchill quote equally applies to Longford when he declared of the RAF: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

For the magnificent ex-Tipperary senior star Cian D’Arcy hit a stunning 1-12, seven from frees in a display for the ages.

D’arcy qualifies under the “Mammy Rule” as his mother comes from Longford and their team had another Tipp star David Buckley, Oisin Gately (Galway), Eamon Allen (Dublin), and Joe Rabbitt (Westmeath).

And Fermanagh felt the full brunt of some Tipp power when David Buckley strode through the centre of the Erne defence and smashed the sliotar to the net.

D’arcy added a point and native Ronan Courtney showed superb pace by getting a second goal to put his side into a 2-03 to 0-01 lead after just five minutes.

Fermanagh were eight down in a heartbeat and it would not be the first time they were to trail by such a margin.

Danann McKeogh landed a few frees for a shell-shocked Fermanagh.

D’Arcy and Oisin Gately added points for Longford and Sean Corrigan responded for Fermanagh as the home side led by 2-07 to 0-06 after 20 minutes.

D’arcy nonchalantly knocked over a point and then made a superb catch before burying the sliotar in the net and he, Buckley and Paddy Lynam pointed to put Longford into a 3-10 to 0-06 lead.

And it looked like game over for Fermanagh as Longford’s excellent keeper Pat Burke made a superb save from a Sean Corrigan rasper but Tom Keenan blasted the rebound to the net for a badly needed Erne goal.

Buckley and Jimmy Tormey swapped points and it still looked pretty grim for Fermanagh as the home side led by 3-11 to 1-08 at the break.

Fermanagh threw on big John Paul McGarry and his physical presence was needed against a huge Longford side and Danny Teague also added some power as they replaced Jimmy Tormey and Barry McPhillips.

Teehan landed two points on the spin as did McGarry with Cathal Mullane responding for Longford.

But it was a fitter Fermanagh who were looking sharper as Caolan Duffy had a great chance of a goal but blazed over from nine yards as the Longford lead was cut to 3-12 to 1-14. 

Fermanagh were cutting off the supply to D’Arcy so he came out the field and almost won this cracker on his own.

He landed another free but this was countered by an increasingly rampant Fermanagh side with points from Mckeogh and Teague as Longford led by 3-14 to 1-17 as the pace quickened in the last quarter as D’arcy landed long-range points from frees.

Luca McCusker hit a superb point from the sideline but it looked like D’Arcy had won the day for Longford when his accuracy pushed them into a 3-18 to 1-20 lead five minutes from time.

But Erne sub, Cahir McManus smashed home a great goal to leave just a point between the sides before Teague levelled a truly epic encounter.

Longford: P Burke; J Casey, E Allen, S Lancaster; A Quinn, K Murray, E Tully (0-01); P Lynam (0-01), C Mullane (0-01); O Gately (0-02), D Buckley (1-01), J Rabbit (0-01); R Murray (0-01), C D’Arcy (1-10,7f), R Courtney (1-00).

Subs; D Caslin for Tully (46), D Caslin for Courtney (67).

Fermanagh: C McKernan; D Bannon, R Porteous, Ciaran Duffy; A Flanagan, R Bogue, O Johnston; L McCusker (0-03), J Tormey (0-01); T Keenan (1-00), Caolan Duffy (0-03), B McPhillips; S Corrigan (0-05), D McKeogh (0-05, 5f), B Teehan (0-02).

Subs; John Paul McGarry (0-01) for Tormey (h/t), D Teague (0-01) for Barry McPhillips (h/t), C McManus (1-00) for Keenan (63), J Duffy for Corrigan (70).

Referee: Kevin Brady (Louth).