The aim for Longford U-21 manager Padraic Davis and his players at the start of the year was to get past Meath/Dublin in their opening game in the Leinster Championship and take it from there.
Meath were the opponents and they were duly dispatched which set up a meeting with neighbours Westmeath in the semi-final; a team who were favourites for the Leinster crown. Last Wednesday night in Navan, Longford produced another shock by booking their place in the title decider.
Having time to reflect on the game Davis believes Longford should have won the game by more. “I was looking at the DVD from the Westmeath game and felt we should have won it in more comfortable fashion. Though, saying that if John Heslin had not been sent-off we would have been in trouble. What we missed compared to Westmeath and the way our players performed compared to them is the big positive I’m taking out of the game. We are still performing within ourselves and getting results,” he told the Leader.
Wexford now provide the opposition in the Leinster Final which takes place in Portlaoise next Wednesday (6th April). It’s a novel pairing and one that wasn’t predicted at the start of the campaign. Both teams have beaten tough opposition to get this far.
Davis said, “Just like ourselves there is no doubt that Wexford are there on merit. They are in the final because they are either the best team in Leinster or the second best team and we feel the very same way. All these games can’t be shocks. At the end of the day you might have one, not two. The best teams are there.”
After being underdogs in their previous two games against Meath and Westmeath, Longford go into the final in an unusual position. Davis hopes his players remain focused on the game. “We are in a dangerous situation now. Prior to this we were underdogs in both games, we probably go into the Wexford game as slight favourites. So we have to be very careful. We know football wise we are good enough and now the mindset must be right. We have to be totally focussed on the job,” said the Longford boss.
Davis is confident that his side can claim victory and bring the provincial U-21 title to the county for the first time. He believes that they have come too far to let this great opportunity pass them by. He said, “If you go into a final there is only one way you want to come out of it; a winner. These guys have worked so hard to get here. They don’t want to fall down at this stage whether it’s a Leinster Final or not after coming through two big battles. I don’t think they will. I’m quite confident that if they play to the best of their ability they will be extremely hard beaten.”