Longford will be promoted to Division Three if they can overcome Offaly

Michael Quinn on the attack for Longford against Wicklow in the recent National Football League game at Aughrim. Photo: Declan Gilmore
Longford are very close to making an immediate return to Division 3 and will clinch promotion if they can overcome the also unbeaten Offaly at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday next, throw-in 3pm.

Longford are very close to making an immediate return to Division 3 and will clinch promotion if they can overcome the also unbeaten Offaly at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday next, throw-in 3pm.

Both counties have won four and drawn one of their previous five fixtures to sit on top of the Division 4 table and there is a lot at stake in this crunch clash.

Longford manager Jack Sheedy does not need to be told that a fierce battle for the top two places will develop if his side should happen to lose against Offaly as Antrim and Carlow are also still in the promotion picture in this very competitive division.

To avoid all that pressure, Longford will get over the finishing line if they succeed in beating Offaly and are in pole position to do just that with home advantage a definite plus.

Sheedy and his fellow mentors Sean Dempsey and Philip Kiernan are working well together to get the county seniors back on track and the players are gathering considerable momentum and growing in confidence as the progress continues this season.

But Longford are now facing their toughest test in the current campaign, despite the fact that Offaly have struggled somewhat in the last couple of games.

The faithful county let a commanding lead sip in the eventual draw against Leitrim and were fortunate to survive in the next outing against Carlow, which was also at O’Connor Park in Tullamore.

When Carlow struck to score a goal in the 52nd minute, Offaly were trailing by three points but they showed a lot of character to battle back into contention and snatched a lucky victory thanks to a last gasp score from centre-half-back John Moloney.

Longford, on the other hand, pulled right away in the final quarter to come out on top by the comfortable margin of six points in their last outing at Aughrim but it must be said that the Wicklow cause suffered a severe setback when they were reduced to 14 players in the 53rd minute.

Wing forward Niall Gaffney was sent-off after receiving a second yellow card and Longford proceeded to make the most of their numerical advantage on their way to winning their fourth league game in a row.

The unbeaten run is a boost for all concerned and on Sunday next Longford will be hoping to confirm their recent superiority over Offaly after beating them in both the National League Division 3 (at O’Connor Park) and the Leinster Championship last year.

Longford were full value for their 0-19 to 0-15 win over Offaly at Pearse Park in the opening round of the championship last May and the counties, of course, will clash at the same stage in Leinster this year - this time in Tullamore on Saturday May 16th.

Retired duo Damien Sheridan and Paul Barden may be gone while Mullinalaghta clubmen Shane Mulligan and John Keegan are not involved with the current squad. But Longford are still good enough to gain promotion from Division 4 with in-form forwards Francis McGee and Sean McCormack pointing the way.

In the aftermath of the bitter disappointment of getting relegated from Division 3 last season, credit to manager Jack Sheedy in the quest to make amends and it will be a job well done if Longford go up by beating Offaly.

But that could prove to be a difficult task as the faithful county footballers are clearly improving under the guidance of new boss Pat Flanagan (the former Westmeath and Sligo supremo) and the Clara native will be confident of getting a positive result at Pearse Park.

Niall McNamee is still the class act on the Offaly team and there are other quality forwards in Anton Sullivan and Bernard Allen, the latter scoring six points (3 frees) in the narrow win over Carlow.

Graham Guilfoyle and Niall Smith are a decent midfield pairing while such experienced defenders as Paul McConway, John Moloney and the Darby brothers Brian and Niall will give nothing easy away.

So it all boils down to a most intriguing encounter with a big crowd expected at Pearse Park on Sunday and a Longford win will deliver the promise of promotion with a game to spare - which is against Carlow at Dr Cullen Park on Easter Sunday April 5th.