A point was required in Thurles on Saturday night for Longford to gain promotion to Division 2 of the National Football League. They achieved that with a draw against Tipperary but it wasn’t easy. With so much at stake Longford manager Glenn Ryan felt that the occasion got to his players a little bit. “We probably played like a team that knew there was something big at stake even though we tried to play it down to a degree,” he told the Leader. “I don’t believe the lads in anyway were complacent. It was a big deal for us to get the result and get over the line.”
The performance at Semple Stadium wasn’t impressive but the draw extended Longford’s unbeaten league run to six games. Ryan is delighted with the form his side have shown during the campaign.
“It has been great and it comes on the back of last year’s success in Division 4. I wonder what this team would be like with a bit of confidence under their belt. They are starting to prove that they are a good side. It is all about bucking up for the championship at this stage. We are looking forward to the Division 3 League Final but the Laois game in the Leinster Championship is the big one now.”
Ryan admitted that it has been a tough campaign for Longford as they had to contend with injuries to key players. “We had a number of injuries last weekend - Sean McCormack, Francis McGee and Paul Kelly - while Niall Mulligan also missed the Tipperary game due to illness. That left us short four from our forward division. We missed Brian Kavanagh at the start of the league and at different stages we have been without players. But the lads who came in made a huge contribution.”
Longford have one league game left; against the other promoted side Wexford in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on 8th April. The two sides will then contest the Division 3 Final at Croke Park on April 28th. It would be an ideal game on Sunday week to give fringe players a chance but the Longford boss said he will stay loyal to the team that secured promotion. “We are not going to disrespect the competition we are in, the opposition or the lads that have earned the jersey. Everything will be taken into consideration and also what we have available to us.”
Now that promotion has been achieved the focus turns to the first round of the Leinster Championship and the meeting with Laois on May 20th. One of Longford’s main aims this year was to get past the first round; something that they have failed to do during Ryan’s reign. He said, “One very big goal for this group of lads this year was to get over Laois in the championship. A good league run was important in our preparations for that game. Thank God we have achieved that and we can look forward to that big home game will a little bit more confidence but there is still a lot more work to be done.”