The stage is set for a most intriguing Senior Football Championship Final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday next (throw-in 3.30pm) with Dromard and Longford Slashers battling it out for the coveted Connolly Cup and the general opinion is that a close encounter is in prospect.
On the basis that they should have beaten the eventual title winners Killoe in the drawn semi-final last year and ended up losing the replay, Dromard will be quietly confident of regaining their status as the kings of Longford football - a distinction they last held back in 2007.
And the proud north Longford club have a score to settle as they were second best against Slashers when the sides last clashed in the county senior final in 2010. On that occasion Dromard were forced to field without the injured Francis McGee, who was a major loss, and went down by just three points after staging a determined late rally.
Revenge would be very sweet indeed on Sunday and Dromard have done well to reach the 2013 title decider without the driving force of the powerful Diarmuid Masterson who emigrated to Australia. Having said that, Slashers have been badly hit by injuries with such experienced players as Paul Kelly and Stephen Phillips ruled out completely in the current championship campaign.
But the return of rock solid defender Dominic Glennon from being based in England and the addition of new signings Peter Foy (ex-Cashel) and Marc Diffley (ex-Sean Connolly’s) have been a boost for last year’s runners-up who are contesting the county final for the fourth year in a row under the so influential guidance of Lanesboro native Denis Connerton.
In fact, it is Slashers sixth appearance in the senior championship decider in the space of eight years and Dromard have a similar great record having now qualified for the final on five occasions since they captured the Connolly Cup back in 2005.
Few can argue with the fact that the two most consistent teams in the county in the recent past have another crack at championship glory and predicting the eventual outcome is a difficult task, to say the least. Ciaran Fox, in his second season with Dromard, has proved beyond all doubt what a good coach he is and a county senior club triumph would add to his growing reputation.
Fox, of course, was the man in charge of the Longford minors who won the 2010 Leinster Championship title and the Sean Connolly’s clubman has carried out a fine job in turning Dromard back into title contenders during his regime and the great spirit shown by Peter Masterson, David Pettit and the Sheridan brothers John and Bernard, in particular, is a clear indication of their fierce desire to succeed.
It is widely regarded that Dromard have a strong attack with prolific scorers Cian Mimnagh, Francis McGee and Jamsie Martin all capable of making a big impact in the eagerly awaited final and the Slashers defence, backboned by county regulars Dermot Brady and Barry Gilleran, could be hard pressed to contain the threat of the tricky trio.
Mimnagh, in particular, has been in outstanding form in the championship this season and is obviously a potential matchwinner but Michael Brady will be fit to play from the start for Slashers on Sunday and his powerful presence at midfield could prove to be a decisive factor in the destination of the title.
Up front, the immense workrate and scoring prowess of Martin Nevin and the accurate free-taking of Colin Smith has played a leading role in getting Slashers so far this year. Apart from a very good start against Killoe in the quarter-final the 2011 champions have struggled to produce their best from and were fortunate to get past Colmcille after a replay in the last four clash.
It could well happen for Slashers in the most important game of the season in their quest to capture the Connolly Cup for the third time in four years and they might just have a slight edge on Sunday. But Dromard looked good in brushing aside the challenge of Mostrim and Abbeylara on their path through the knock-out stages and they will believe that a major success can be achieved.