If Longford are to have any chance of avoiding the dreaded drop into Division 4 of the National Football League then a win over Fermanagh at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday next (throw-in 2pm) is a must.
The fact that Brian Kavanagh is expected to be back in action will be a big boost for the county footballers who will be hoping to end a long losing sequence in the league, stretching back to that unlucky Division 2 Round 1 defeat away to Wexford in February 2013.
After missing all of last season, Kavanagh returned to the squad for the Oâ€™Byrne Cup campaign in January but he unfortunately sustained a hamstring injury in a challenge against Galway that ruled the Ardagh man out of the first two Division 3 fixtures against Roscommon and Limerick.
Defeat was Longfordâ€™s lot in both those games but it might have been a different story had Kavanagh been fit to play. Hopefully, he has recovered fully from the recent injury setback and a footballer of his quality will clearly strengthen the attack that includes other experienced players in Sean McCormack and Francis McGee.
But Paul Barden is apparently not yet ready to return with reports suggesting that he could be back to face neighbouring rivals Cavan in the next home league game on Sunday March 16th. His absence is proving to be a major blow while sorely missed from the defence is the steady influence of Declan Reilly.
Longford let Limerick in for a couple of handy goals that decided the outcome of the last league fixture at the Gaelic Grounds and the defence will have to tighten up considerably in the battle to survive in the so competitive Division 3.
Brought on against Roscommon and Limerick, Shane Mulligan is surely set to start against Fermanagh while the option of moving Michael Quinn back to his regular role in the half-back-line must also be a strong consideration for manager Jack Sheedy after the Killoe player was selected in the attack against Limerick.
The presence of other well established defenders in Dermot Brady and Barry Gilleran should also make it difficult for the Fermanagh forwards but Sean Quigley and Tomas Corrigan are capable of causing a big threat in the full-forward-line.
Quigley was the star of the show, scoring 1-8 (6 frees) in the six points win over Sligo in the Round 2 fixture at Brewster Park in Enniskillen, while Corrigan fired over seven points (six frees) in the 1-12 to 0-11 Round 1 defeat by Cavan at Breffni Park.
Former Down supremo Pete McGrath is the new Fermanagh manager but he must plan without the loss of Martin McGrath, James Sherry, Niall Bogue and Ronan Gallagher who are no longer in the squad.
However, with a commanding midfield leader in captain Eoin Donnelly the current Fermanagh team will still prove difficult to beat and the Longford management will be looking to the centrefield pairing of John Keegan and Michael Brady to make the necessary impact on Sunday next.
With key players gradually returning, Longford are in a position to field their strongest side this season and a badly needed win in such a crucial game will be a great lift for all concerned.
Beating Fermanagh will ease the relegation worries in the build up to the next big battle away to Offaly at Oâ€™Connor Park in Tullamore the following week and the under pressure county team could certainly do with a greater turnout of supporters in their quest to halt the slide.