Longford manager Glenn Ryan doesn’t just want his team to consolidate their position in Division 3 of the National Football League; he wants them to be competitive as well.
Last year Longford secured promotion and claimed the Division 4 title. Ryan now wants them to progress to the next level. “We want to try and build on the relative success we had last year; move Longford on to a level that we are capable of competing at. We will try and do as well as we can. There is not much more we can do,” he told the Leader.
This Sunday Longford start their Division 3 campaign with a home game against Offaly. The Longford boss knows they are facing a tough encounter. “We will get a real tough, hard, dogged game from them. They are going to be as keen to get two points as we are. It’s going to be a difficult game and one that our players will have to show what they are capable of doing if we are to win.”
After the Offaly game, Glenn Ryan’s side travel to take on Cavan before the league takes a break. Longford completely brushed aside the challenge of Cavan in the All-Ireland Qualifiers last June but Ryan admits they will be a different proposition this year. “The qualifier game is well behind us and there is no doubt that Cavan would have been very disappointed with their performance. You can see now Val Andrews is keen in bringing along the talent that got them to an U-21 All-Ireland Final in 2011. There will be a hunger and drive there from those young fellas.”
Ryan is looking forward to Longford testing themselves against those teams and also against Roscommon, Sligo, Antrim, Wexford and Tipperary. “That’s the level I’d like to think that we are at. We know that it’s very competitive; Limerick got relegated last year on six points. Division 3 traditionally is so competitive and games can go either way. They are all good teams. Every team will pick up points and drop points.”
Over the years Longford have made Pearse Park a bit of a fortress, with not many teams tasting victory there. The Kildare man wants them to maintain that record but he knows teams will use it as a motivation. “Teams will be coming to Pearse Park with an opportunity to turn over the local team and we will need to be very wary despite our good home record.”
Like previous years Ryan will use the league as preparation for the Leinster Championship. With Laois at home in the first round, players will get the opportunity to stake a claim for a place on the team. “Any fella that is on the panel will be challenging for a position,” said Ryan. “We have a strong squad.. There is no point having a panel just to make up numbers, you need to have fellas on it who are capable of competing on any day. That’s what we have at the moment.”
With the recent success of the minor team winning the Leinster title and the U-21s reaching the Leinster Final last year Ryan is delighted that the potential is there and he feels it augurs well for the future of Longford at senior level. “It’s great for Longford in the long term that there are young fellas coming through. It’s important that there is competition for places. People may feel that they can rest on their laurels but there is now a lot of competition there. That’s what we have and it’s a great situation to be in.”