For Longford manager Glenn Ryan and his squad the focus all year has been May 26th and their Leinster Championship clash against Wicklow in Aughrim.
“We said it throughout the year that this was our focus and now we have to put the foot down and kick on,” he told the Leader.
After a league campaign that was dogged with injuries Ryan will have a strong panel to choose from in the countdown to Sunday’s game. Paul Barden made a welcome return in the recent challenge against Offaly and the Longford boss is delighted to have his influential captain back: “It’s important to have him back. Hopefully he will be right on the day, we will wait and see. It is important to have everybody right and have all players ready for Wicklow. We still have a few things that need to be cleared up but we are in a healthier state with our injury problems than what we were a while back.”
“It’s the biggest panel we have had to pick from all year. Every fella that trains deserves their chance on the team and will be judged on form; training, matches and everything else. We had a poor league campaign and terrible injuries and we had to introduce some newcomers.”
Looking ahead to the big game Ryan isn’t particularly bothered by the record Wicklow have at home. He is more interested in the team that they are facing and not the venue that has become a fortress for Wicklow in recent years: “We are not worried about Aughrim but are wary about Wicklow. It’s the players that we are coming up against that we have to be worried about, not the venue. They have good players and had a great league campaign last year when they won the Division 4 league title. And a bit like ourselves were unfortunate in the league this season with a lot of injuries and lads missing so Wicklow will be really fired up in their efforts to beat us.”
Although Longford had a poor league campaign that ended in the disappointment of relegation from Division 2, Ryan is confident that his side can produce the performance they are capable of on Sunday. “There is no doubt about that. It’s not ideal preparation for us to go into a championship match after losing all our league games but in terms of the commitment, spirit among the squad and the attitude of the players; I am very happy. Those fellas deserve great credit for sticking at it when other players wouldn’t have. Maybe they have learned over the last few years that it is worth it in the long run. We are not too far away and if we keep plugging at it we might just get that break. I am confident that these lads will do all they can to beat Wicklow on Sunday.”