In the aftermath of the
horrific hammering that Longford suffered against Tipperary in the All-Ireland qualifiers and the subsequent doom and gloom, there is always a glimmer of hope and hopefully the county championship will serve up some salvation for the local GAA supporters.
The battle for the coveted Connolly Cup is always intriguing and the race for the title will start this weekend with six first round matches scheduled for four different venues - Ballinalee, Newtowncashel, Killoe and Granard.
County champions Longford Slashers are in action against Fr. Manning Gaels at Emmet Park on Saturday evening and would appear to be in a vulnerable state with Mark Smith and Paul Kelly not available this season as both are currently out of the country while Marc Diffley is also gone away for a spell.
The loss of the versatile Diffley is a big blow for the sky-blues, considering the major impact he made on the path to senior championship glory last year, and Dominic Glennon will also be missing after retiring from the game. And the latest blow for Slashers is the injury sustained by Peter Brady in the Division 1 league defeat against Dromard last weekend.
Therefore, it must be said that Slashers will be very hard pressed to retain the county crown and one wonders will the hunger still be there after winning the title three times during the past four years.
In fact, Slashers have contested the last four senior finals and the only setback during the so successful Denis Connerton regime was the replay extra-time defeat in the 2012 decider against Killoe.
While Emmet Og must be fancied for a serious crack at championship glory with their strong squad, their hopes have been hit by the departure of star player Michael Quinn to the United States for a number of weeks.
But Quinn will be back for the knock-out stages, with Killoe expected to make it through to the last eight, and for the moment the Killoe manager Tommy McCormack will be concentrating on the first round clash against Mostrim at the Higginstown grounds in Granard on Sunday evening.
Shrewd coach Enda Macken is in charge of his native club Dromard, who are going well in the league this season and are currently top of the table. Their latest win in Division 1 was against Slashers by the wide margin of ten points, impressive form coming into the championship. Key player Diarmuid Masterson has returned home after emigrating for a while and the north Longford side appear to be in a good position to make amends for the defeats in the 2009, 2010 and 2013 county finals.
Donâ€™t rule out Clonguish, who meet Dromard in the first round tie at Higginstown on Sunday evening, and the emergence of a few good young players has given them a better balance this year with former Cavan footballer Mickey Graham re-appointed the manager after guiding the Newtownforbes outfit to the county final in 2011.
In the final analysis, the leading contenders for the 2014 county title would appear to be Dromard and Killoe who could meet in the Connolly Cup decider if they stay apart in the draw. The Senior Club Championship is always a highlight in the Longford GAA season and with five first round games in the Intermediate Championship also fixed for this weekend, 22 of the 24 clubs will be in action.