St. Conleth’s Park in Newbridge is the venue for the Leinster Junior Football Championship Final between Longford and Kildare this Wednesday evening (June 26th), throw-in 7.30pm.
And after showing a lot of character in the narrow wins over Wexford and Cavan on their path to the provincial decider, Eugene McCormack’s charges must have a good chance of coming out on top.
Carrickedmond clubman McCormack was also at the helm when Longford lost to Kildare in the Leinster U-21 Final back at the beginning of April and no less than eight members of that team featured for the county juniors in the semi-final against Cavan – notably Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond), Darren Gallagher (Granard), Barry McKeon (Colmcille) and the Killoe contingent of Ronan Keogh, Darragh Bennett, Daniel Mimnagh and Mark Hughes.
Some of the more experienced players in the Longford junior squad are Paddy Dowd (Clonguish), Shane Doyle (Kenagh), Paul McKeon (Colmcille), Kevin Burke (Clonguish), John Paul Reilly (Colmcille), Jamsie Martin (Dromard) and Fr. Manning Gaels duo Johnny Kane and Mark Duffy and hopes are high that victory can be achieved against Kildare who have certain restrictions placed upon them on the composition of the team that they are eligible to field in this competition.
Having said that, three members of the current Kildare senior squad – Sean Hurley, Keith Cribben and Cathal McNally - are expected to be in action in the Junior Final and their top player is unquestionably the powerful Hurley who was outstanding at centrefield for the county U-21s in their Leinster title win over Longford.
Hurley is very much the key figure on the Kildare junior team and will be extremely difficult to contain while other prominent players are centre-half-forward Seamus Hanafin and full-forward Cian Bolton, who scored six points (four frees) between them in the slender 0-8 to 0-7 win over unlucky Wicklow in the semi-final at the Newbridge grounds. In the opening round of the competition the lily-whites cruised to a comprehensive 1-17 to 1-7 success against Meath.
Kildare are appearing in the Leinster Junior decider for the third year in a row, winning the title in 2011 but who lost out by seven points (1-13 to 0-9) against Cavan in the final played in Newbridge last season. A significant result, to say the least, when you take into account that Cavan had snatched a last gasp goal to beat so unfortunate Longford by a point in the 2012 semi-final.
Although they did succeed in reaching the final in 2009, eventually going down to Louth 1-12 to 0-10 in a replay at Pearse Park following the drawn encounter at Croke Park, Longford have not won the Leinster Junior Championship since 1953.
But with Eugene McCormack instilling the belief the current squad will be hoping to bridge that 60 year gap in their bid to get the better of Kildare (who are managed by Dermot Finn) in the battle for the provincial title and a place in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final.