For years a Longford appearance, at any grade, in Croke Park was rare and playing in finals were a historic occasion. But now for the second season in a row Longford senior footballers will run out in GAA Headquarters to play in a National League final, this time the Division 3 title decider against Wexford.
Last year Longford captain Paul Barden walked up the steps of the Hogan Stand to receive the Division 4 Cup. Speaking to the Leader he’s looking forward to another visit to Croker. “When I started playing you never really got the chance to play in Croke Park, we were always sent to the lesser grounds. The young lads like playing up there, a lot of them who are involved with the senior squad now have played there and won there. This team won a title there last year and it’s great to be going up there with a bit of confidence.”
Longford go into Saturday’s final on the back of an unbeaten league campaign. Winning has given Barden and his team-mates a lot of confidence. He said, “Winning does breed confidence. You expect to win games every time you go out. Then you have these young lads coming through that have a hunger too and they are top class. It’s great to be playing on a winning team and it’s something you thrive on.”
Paul Barden, who have given tremendous service to the county cause for many years, is hoping his side can claim another national title but the most important thing for him is the performance, with Longford playing Laois in the Leinster Championship in a few weeks time. “We need a good performance in the league final to bring that momentum into the championship. There will be big changes from the teams that played in the recent league game. Both sides held back that day with nothing at stake. They will be a different tempo to the game on a big wide open pitch and the atmosphere will be good.”
Barden believes things are really coming together now for Longford under the guidance of Glenn Ryan, now in his fourth year at the helm. “Any manager or any bunch of players need the team to bed in and find their feet. I think this team is beginning to grow and things are falling into place nicely. There are fantastic footballers here in Longford and it’s all about getting the performance out of them week in week out.”