County Final Preview

After reaching the Senior Football Championship Final for the first time in 17 years, Killoe have emerged as a major force in their quest to regain the coveted Connolly Cup and are a serious threat to Longford Slashers title reign on the evidence of the great character they have shown in coming through difficult games against Abbeylara and Dromard (twice) in the knock-out stages.

After reaching the Senior Football Championship Final for the first time in 17 years, Killoe have emerged as a major force in their quest to regain the coveted Connolly Cup and are a serious threat to Longford Slashers title reign on the evidence of the great character they have shown in coming through difficult games against Abbeylara and Dromard (twice) in the knock-out stages.

Backboned by the bulk of the U-21 team that won the ‘A’ Championship last season (a significant success in a competition they previously won back in 1979), Young Emmets are growing from strength to strength and the return of Michael Quinn from his Australian Football League (AFL) adventure is proving to be a tremendous boost for his native club and county.

In recognition of some impressive performances for Longford this year, Michael has been nominated for a prestigious All-Star Award (along with Clonguish player Paul Barden) and the mighty Quinn will be hoping to produce the same high standard in the eagerly awaited county senior final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday next (throw-in 3.30pm).

Another big threat for Slashers is the presence of the most prolific forward in Longford on the Killoe team, the deadly accurate Sean McCormack, and he will take some stopping if he receives a proper supply of the ball. After clocking up a tremendous total of scores for the county this season, sharpshooter Sean has also done the business for his club in the current championship campaign clearly reflected in the 5 goals and 31 points he has registered in seven games.

With class acts like Quinn and McCormack on their team, Killoe were always going to be one of the leading contenders for the Connolly Cup this year and McCormack is the top scorer in the 2012 championship. This talented young team are delivering on their potential and will be in a confident frame of mind in their bid to cross the final hurdle under the guidance of their influential manager Tommy McCormack.

When Killoe last won the county title back in 1995, McCormack was the man in charge and he also coached Young Emmets to senior championship glory in 1993. A great record, to say the least, and Tommy will be a very proud person indeed if another success is achieved on Sunday – particularly as his son Joe is the captain of the current team.

Joe McCormack, whether he lines-out at centrefield or in the half-back-line, will be hoping to make a big impact against Slashers while another key figure for Killoe is the versatile Padraig McCormack who graduated to the Longford senior side this year. Padraig is the younger brother of Sean and a first cousin of Joe, making it a real family affair.

Defender Padraig can figure prominently in the final such is his immense workrate and while Sean is very much the main man in the Young Emmets attack, the Slashers defence will also have to deal with the threat of other useful forwards in the McGoldrick brothers Denis and Ronan along with Daniel Mimnagh, Eugene Clarke and Mark Hughes, the latter having the ability to score crucial goals.

Promising young midfielder Paddy Thompson will be determined to make his presence felt in this crucial sector and while Killoe have been hit by injuries to backs Ronan Keogh and David Kiernan, they are still shaping up well in the quest for championship glory.

While fortunate to survive in the drawn semi-final clash against Dromard it must be said that Young Emmets made the necessary improvement in showing a lot of resolve to win the replay by a couple of points and thus they will carry considerable momentum into the Connolly Cup decider, particularly with the benefit of the extra game.

Winners of the county title in 2010 and 2011, the Longford Slashers players do not need to be told that they are facing a very tough task in their quest to complete the senior championship three-in-a-row which the club last achieved in 1989, 1990 and 1991 during the glorious Dessie Barry era. But the sky-blues have a definite edge in experience as they prepare to contest the county final for the fifth time in seven years (losing in 2006 v Abbeylara and 2008 v Colmcille) and the return of Michael Brady from his travels has clearly strengthened the team.

Brady missed out on the title triumphs for the past two years during his spell working abroad but the powerful midfielder now has the opportunity to collect his first senior championship medal as he links up with his brother Peter on the current Slashers team.

The spirited Brady boys have been a real driving force for Slashers this season with the very determined Peter commanding a place in a generally rock solid defence that is backboned by regular Longford backs Barry Gilleran and Dermot Brady. Team captain Dermot had the honour of collecting the Connolly Cup in 2010 and 2011 and will be hoping to do the same again on Sunday.

Slashers can also call on the services of another couple of county players in Niall Mulligan and Paul Kelly, both of whom are capable of making a major impact in the big match, while the chief marksmen in the attack are the accurate Smith brothers who have accounted for 5 goals and 49 points between them on the path to the 2012 final which is a most significant contribution.

Colin (the top scorer for Slashers with 2-35 to his credit) and Mark (clocking up a total of 3-14) are obviously capable of causing problems for the Killoe defence while another dangerman is Martin Nevin who has played particularly well in the county championship this year.

Conor Clarke, a member of the Longford minor team who won the Leinster title in 2010, will be hoping to play a prominent part in the final while David Sheridan, Trevor Clendenning, Stephen Phillips and Gareth Ghee are all vastly experienced players on the well-balanced Slashers team.

The sky-blues stepped up a couple of gears from the rather meaningless league stage of the championship to overcome the challenge of Mullinalaghta (after losing to St. Columba’s in the group phase) and Clonguish with a bit to spare in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.

Having said that, the title holders had to rely on goals at crucial stages of the first half to pave the way for their eventual win over a Clonguish side who were forced to field without the injured Paul Barden and he was a major loss for the 2011 beaten finalists.

While Slashers are a physically strong side who will be hard beaten, staying at the top is getting harder and will Denis Connerton’s charges have the hunger to savour success once again?

Adding extra spice to a tasty final affair is the fact that Connerton is a former Killoe manager who guided the Young Emmets to the semi-final in 2008, losing out by a point against Colmcille. Connerton was also at the helm for a second season in 2009 as Killoe reached the quarter-final but were beaten by Dromard (3-8 to 2-6).

Denis has gone on to enjoy great success with Slashers and is now plotting the downfall of unbeaten Killoe who have lit up this year’s Senior Championship with their attractive brand of football. It’s a long time since Young Emmets last captured the Connolly Cup back in 1995 when they were captained to glory by Mark Mimnagh whose son Daniel is a member of the current team.

In the final analysis of what promises to be a cracking county final with little separating the neighbouring rivals in the finish (a draw perhaps!) the value of experience in the heat of the championship battle should stand to Slashers

Thus the reigning champions are given the vote to have the edge over Killoe in a most intriguing contest that is generating huge interest among GAA followers all over Co Longford and the surrounding areas with the clubs last clashing in the senior title decider way back in 1960 when Young Emmets emerged victorious.

PREDICTION:

Longford Slashers