Although the Longford minors only managed to win just one of eight competitive fixtures in the build-up to the Leinster Championship, they might be good enough to cross the first hurdle when they take on Wicklow in Blessington on Saturday next, throw-in 3pm.
Manager Tony Devlin (Clonguish) and his fellow mentors Eugene McCormack (Carrickedmond), Colin ‘Dolly’ Dalton (Sean Connolly’s) and Michael Kenny (Mostrim) had a look at over 30 players who featured in the league games and competition is extremely keen for places on the Longford U-18 team for the match that really matters.
A lot of hard work had gone into the preparations and while the confidence factor has been hit by defeats against Tipperary, Meath and Louth in the Leinster tournament and further setbacks against Galway, Mayo, Leitrim and Sligo in the Connacht competition, a win over Wicklow will be a big boost for all concerned.
Little is known about the opposition and while home advantage is in Wicklow’s favour, Longford will head for Blessington in the belief that they can qualify directly for the quarter-finals of the Leinster Championship.
That is something the county have failed to do since 2008 when they beat Laois in the first round and thereafter it has been the back door route with significant success, the highlight of which was the magnificent Leinster title triumph in 2010.
With just a solitary victory so far in 2015, against Roscommon in the Connacht League, the current Longford minors are better than that disappointing pre-championship form would appear to suggest and will be hoping to make further progress.
But even if they happen to be beaten by Wicklow, and winning in the garden county at any level is generally a difficult task, there is the ‘safety net’ of a second chance in the qualifiers involving the first round losers who will battle it out for the two remaining quarter-final places.
Longford are backboned by four members of the team that started against Kildare in the quarter-final defeat (after extra-time) last year, notably Conor Berry (Abbeylara), Jayson Matthews (Mullinalaghta), Cathal McCabe (Colmcille) and Cian Brady (Abbeylara).
Peter Lynn (Young Grattans), Liam Barry (Longford Slashers), Cillian Lee (Killashee), Kevin Sorohan (Rathcline), Peter Hanley (Clonguish), Darragh Doherty (Mostrim), Joe Heaney (Sean Connolly’s) and Russell Brady (Abbeylara) are some of the others in contention to face Wicklow. And at least four members of the Ballymahon Vocational Schools team that won the All-Ireland Senior ‘D’ football title in March are also part of the Longford minor squad and pressing to feature against Wicklow are Conor Farrell (Cashel), Carrickedmond duo Michael Cahill and Enda Farrell along with Kenagh’s Thomas McGann.
In their unlucky one-point defeat against Leitrim in the Connacht League, conceding a soft last gasp goal, Longford fielded their strongest side this season including the Ballymahon VS players and a repeat of that decent performance should see them through against Wicklow on Saturday.