‘Belief’ is a word constantly linked with the Longford U-21 squad. It started back in 2010 when against all the odds they won the Leinster Minor Championship title. This year that belief was evident again in the U-21 Hastings Cup Final comeback win against Cavan back in January and the success story continued in the Leinster Championship in the shock victory over Dublin and the beating of Wexford.
This Wednesday evening (April 3rd) Longford take on the firm favourites Kildare in the Leinster U-21 Final at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise and for captain Padraig McCormack the belief is there that they can cause another upset: “We have no fear of Kildare,” he told the Leader. “They are going in as red hot favourites and we have nothing to lose. All we have to do is go out and do ourselves justice. Belief can go an awful long way. There is not much difference in footballers around the country and there is no reason why Longford should have an inferior complex. We have proven we can beat big teams and it’s just a matter of sustaining that belief and being consistent. You must have that inner belief that you will always have a chance in every game.”
Longford U-21 captain McCormack admitted that the aim at the start of the year was to claim a provincial title and they are hoping they can do just that: “At the start of the year we set a goal and that was to win the Leinster Championship. Obviously then after that we focused on each game at a time. We didn’t look beyond Dublin or Wexford and we are taking it each step at a time. We are in a Leinster Final now but it’s just another game for us. We are going to focus on ourselves and getting the best performance we can out of the game and hopefully that will be enough to win.”
Longford have had a tough path to the final; beating All-Ireland champions Dublin and then 2011 Leinster winners Wexford. McCormack said, “We have two great wins under our belt. Wexford are always a bogey team for Longford and it was great to get that out of the system. In those games we showed a never-say-die attitude and that’s not going to stop.”
The Killoe lad has all the attributes that a good leader should have and while he likes to concentrate on football on the field, he tries to motivate his team-mates off it: “I always have a chat with the lads before the game to try and get them motivated and just to believe in themselves. Telling them to go out and express themselves and don’t put any extra pressure on yourself,” McCormack said.
Looking ahead to the big game this Wednesday evening brings back good memories of Longford’s win over Kildare in the Leinster minor semi-final three years ago and McCormack is hoping that history can repeat itself: “Back then it was the same as it is now, the role of massive underdogs. This is a very good Kildare team so we are going to be up against it but we are a good side too. We have no fear and we have not come this far just to fall at the final hurdle.”