With all their injury problems in the current senior championship campaign, the title holders Longford Slashers are certainly facing a tough task in the quarter-final at Pearse Park on Saturday evening next against a promising Abbeylara side, who are going well this season under the guidance of Gowna clubman Dessie Brady.
Backboned by quite a few of the U-21 team that won the ‘A’ Championship title for the first time in the history of the club last season, Abbeylara can also call on the services of experienced players in Arthur O’Connor, James McEntire, Maurice O’Connor and Niall Sheridan and will be hard beaten in their quest to capture the coveted Connolly Cup for the first time since 2006.
Abbeylara are the current leaders in Division 1B of the All County League and came through the group stages of the championship unbeaten with significant wins over Mullinalaghta and Clonguish to clinch a quarter-final spot in fairly emphatic fashion.
Slashers, on the other hand, struggled in the group stages and almost suffered a shock defeat in a fortunate draw against last year’s Intermediate champions Carrickedmond. While things did improve in their next outing, as they came from behind to beat Fr. Manning Gaels by five points to make sure of their place in the knock-out stages, Abbeylara will provide a much sterner test.
Still on the casualty list are key players Paul Kelly and Mark Smith who have yet to feature in this year’s championship, while injuries will apparently prevent David Sheridan and Peter Brady from playing in the quarter-final. No longer part of the squad that won the title last year are goalkeeper Gordon Hourican and corner-back Dominic Glennon and it remains to be seen whether Slashers (with Denis Connerton still in charge) have the hunger to win back-to-back senior titles.
A close game is in prospect and probably the greater experience of the Slashers side against a relatively young Abbeylara outfit may prove to be a decisive factor in a most intriguing battle for a last four showdown against Colmcille or Killoe who meet in the remaining quarter-final at Pearse Park on Sunday evening next.
After beating Mostrim and Granard, the Young Emmets crashed to a disappointing defeat against Sean Connolly’s in their final group fixture but still managed to reach the last eight on the scores difference rule.
A most notable absentee on that occasion was county star Sean McCormack who is a real class act and his return to the team after a slight injury problem will make a big difference to a generally young team with plenty of potential.
After producing a poor performance when they lost by seven points against Ballymahon in the opening round, Colmcille bounced back in tremendous fashion to get the better of fierce neighbouring rivals Dromard and are currently enjoying a new lease of life.
Managed by Fr. Manning Gaels clubman Gary Brady, the 2008 champions Colmcille went on to score a comprehensive nine-point win over Rathcline in cruising to a quarter-final spot and thus will carry considerable momentum into the clash against Killoe (coached by former Leitrim star Seamus Quinn) in what promises to be a tight contest.