As the Longford senior hurlers prepare to embark on the Nicky Rackard Cup championship campaign, manager Ray Gavin said that consolidation is their main target and then hopefully they can take it on from there.
“We need to win a game in the Nicky Rackard Cup; be it the first one or second one. If you win one game you are going to progress to a quarter-final and that also means you are going to retain your status in this championship. First and foremost we need to do that. It would be an achievement for us to stay there. One game caused our wheels to come off (the league final defeat against Warwickshire) but I know one more win will have the very opposite effect and it could all lift off.”
Longford’s first game in the Nicky Rackard Cup is against Monaghan in Clones this Saturday (5pm). Just like Longford, Monaghan’s last competitive game was a league final defeat.
Gavin said: “It all depends on which one of us is going to get over the disappointment first. Monaghan have been playing at a higher standard than us and when you look at the Nicky Rackard Cup we would be perceived as being the weakest county in it. We are the lowest ranked team in the competition but we have nothing to lose and there is no pressure on us.”
Speaking about the Division 3B league final defeat to Warwickshire the Longford manager was honest about how it affected his players. “It has been tough to take because we put in a huge effort. We had almost 30 lads training in Shroid in the snow putting in a great effort and there was a good buzz. We won our three games in the group stage but then to lose the league final the way we did has made it hard to push on.”
Gavin had hoped Longford would be a Division 3A side when they played in the Nicky Rackard Cup but unfortunately it didn’t happen that way. Winning all their league games in the group stage didn’t guarantee Longford promotion. This is something that has been highlighted in the media lately after Tyrone manager Mattie Lennon said weaker counties don’t generate money for Croke Park.
Ray Gavin said: “Mattie was complaining about the fact that Tyrone won Division 3A, yet because they lost a play-off (against Donegal) they were denied promotion. They talk about promoting hurling but they’re only paying it lip service.”
Gavin hopes the hurt the players felt after the Warwickshire defeat can inspire them in Clones on Saturday. “Hopefully we can use the hurt this year to help us when we play. We have accepted the fact that if it takes us a year longer to get out of Division 3B then so be it. We will re-group and strive for promotion next year.”
Looking ahead to the Monaghan game, Longford have injury problems while a number of players have not been able to train due to exams.
“We have injury concerns and lads are also doing exams too and have not been available to train. But if we can get players back for this game it will help us drive on in the Nicky Rackard Cup,” concluded Gavin who will have Joe O’Brien back after injury ruled him out of the league final defeat against Warwickshire.