In their first competitive fixture under new manager Jack Sheedy, the Longford senior football side are in action away to Carlow in Group B of the O’Byrne Cup Tournament at Dr. Cullen Park on Sunday next (throw-in 2pm) and many regulars will be missing for the start of the 2014 season.
Sean McCormack and Shane Mulligan have apparently decided to take a break from the inter-county scene while Padraig McCormack’s football career continues to be threatened by a serious eye problem that prevented him from starting for Killoe in the U-21 ‘A’ Championship Final back in November, although he was brought on late in the game when Emmet Og lost out to Fr. Manning Gaels.
Some better news for Jack Sheedy is the return of Brian Kavanagh, who missed the entire 2013 season after taking a leave of absence from his teaching job in Dublin to spend several months in New York. Kavanagh could start against Carlow while also back in the squad is Clonguish clubman Enda Williams after lining-out with Leitrim for a couple of years.
At this moment in time, Sheedy is working alongside selector Liam Keenan with the latter no longer in charge of Ardagh after guiding his club to Intermediate Championship glory in 2013. For the trip to Carlow, the Longford management team will have to plan without regular midfielder Michael Brady who is out injured. And it remains to be seen whether any of the Slashers players currently on the county panel will feature in the O’Byrne Cup Round 1 fixture on Sunday after a long season with their club.
With Declan Reilly also on the casualty list and Paul Barden unlikely to make his first appearance of the new season until the match that really matters against Roscommon in Round 1 of the National League Division 3 at Pearse Park on February 2nd, experimental Longford teams will line-out in the O’Byrne Cup and therefore the result against Carlow is of little significance. Other notable absentees on Sunday next will be Bernard McElvaney and Michael Quinn, the latter committed to his college DCU in the O’Byrne Cup.
Having said that, the pre-season warm up Leinster competition still serves a fairly useful purpose in giving the other members of the squad the opportunity to make an impact with the other O’Byrne Cup fixtures both at home - against Kildare on Wednesday night next January 8th (in Newtowncashel) and Athlone IT on Sunday January 12th (in Ballymahon).