It is early days yet in the return of Denis Connerton as the manager of the Longford senior football squad but a steady start has been made to the new season with wins over Wicklow and NUI Maynooth along with the narrow defeat against Westmeath in the group stage of the O’Byrne Cup.
And with Westmeath suffering a surprise setback against NUI Maynooth last weekend, it is Longford who have ended up in the semi-final of the Leinster senior tournament against the All-Ireland champions Dublin who are the big attraction at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday next, throw-in 2pm.
Connerton is delighted with the extra game in the build up to the National League Division 3 campaign, which starts on Sunday January 31st away to Offaly. But the vastly experienced coach will not be getting carried away with the results so far in the O’Byrne Cup with the counties involved generally fielding experimental teams.
Longford recovered from the bitter disappointment of letting a commanding ten points lead slip in the midweek fixture 0-14 to 1-10 loss against Westmeath played in horrendous conditions amid the lashing rain and strong wind at the St Loman’s GFC grounds in Mullingar by beating Wicklow at Pearse Park on Sunday last.
But the county had to battle hard to emerge victorious by four points and are now facing a serious test against the might of Dublin. Although their manager Jim Gavin has been experimenting in playing some of the promising U-21s from the past couple of years and has already used a total of 29 players in the current O’Byrne Cup, quite a few regulars have featured in the group games against Wexford (which ended in a draw), Carlow IT and DCU.
In action for the strong DCU side at Parnell Park on Sunday last were Longford players Michael Quinn and Rory Connor but Dublin still proved too good in their 1-16 to 1-12 victory to clinch their place in the O’Byrne Cup semi-final.
Six of the team that started in last year’s All-Ireland final against Kerry lined-out against the students last weekend, notably Philly McMahon, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, Denis Bastick, Dean Rock and Paddy Andrews.
John Small and Darren Daly, brought on in the final quarter of the 2015 All-Ireland final, also featured against DCU as did other established members of the Dublin squad, Cormac Costello and Tomas Brady.
Longford are bidding to reach the O’Byrne Cup final for the first time since 2008 when they let victory slip away in the slender one point defeat (2-12 to 1-14) against Dublin in the title decider at Parnell Park.