crunch time for longford

Longford's Kevin Diffley evades Clare's Jamie Malone in the Football Qualifiers at Cusack Park, Ennis, on Saturday last. Photo: Arthur Ellis.
It is a massive weekend for the Longford senior and minor football sides, and standing between them and double success will be Kildare.

It is a massive weekend for the Longford senior and minor football sides, and standing between them and double success will be Kildare.

Unfortunately, after having to forfeit home advantage, Jack Sheedy’s senior charges will aim to maintain their progress in the All-Ireland qualifiers with a Round 3A joust against Kildare at 7pm on Saturday evening in Cusack Park, Mullingar.

It is the first time for the counties to collide in the qualifiers and although the weight of history is stacked against Longford - they haven’t beaten Kildare in the Leinster Championship since 1967 - they’ve absolutely no reason to be fearful against a side that has had a very similar campaign to themselves. Longford captain Dermot Brady was ruled out of the win over Clare owing to a virus but he is expected to be available for selection while Colmcille’s Barry McKeon is also fighting hard to prove his fitness.

Tony Devlin’s Longford minor squad are going in search of provincial glory on Sunday when they confront the Lilywhites, managed by former Longford senior boss Brendan Hackett, at 12 noon in the Electric Ireland Leinster MFC Final at Croke Park.

Longford last savoured success in this grade in 2010 and hopes are high that they can capture silverware for a fifth occasion. Regardless of the outcome, Longford will have an All-Ireland quarter-final to look forward to on the August Bank Holiday weekend against the Ulster champions or runners-up.

Centre back Conor Farrell (Cashel), who sustained a hand injury during Longford’s 1-9 to 0-8 semi-final win over Meath, may not be available and should he not make it, he will be a huge loss. Kildare defeated Longford after extra-time in last year’s quarter-final and following their impressive semi-final win over Dublin they are favourites to win.

Longford, however, always relish being underdogs and expect them to have a right good cut at it at GAA headquarters.

Reacting to Monday’s qualifier draw, Sheedy said: “Make no mistake about it Kildare are improving and they needed to get that qualifier game in and beating Offaly will have done them good. We’ll have to perform at a higher level than we have done already and if we can do that we’ll be in the mix and will give ourselves a good chance.”

On the prospect of advancing to the last twelve in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup, he added, “It’s a step up for us. Kildare are a very athletic team and play at a high tempo. It’s a big test and if we can continue to make the improvements that we have been making and cut out the mistakes we have a good chance. We are playing well and confidence is good so we’ll have a right good go at it.”

Meanwhile, a Longford legend will be inducted into the Leinster GAA Hall of Fame at Croke Park on Sunday. Dessie Barry was the biggest star in Longford during the 1980’s and 1990’s, lining out with the county from 1982 to 2000, and in 1990 he represented Ireland, managed by Eugene McGee, in the International Rules series. He also won a Railway Cup medal with Leinster in 1988.

Nominated for an All Star in 1988, ‘89 & ‘90, Dessie won six Longford SFC medals with Slashers in 1979, ‘80, ’89, ’90, ’91 and ’94. He was man of the match in each of the finals from 1989 - ‘91 and was also selected on the Longford Team of the Millennium.