After guiding the Longford ladies to the Division 4 league title last month, manager Diane O’Hora wants to bring more success to the county starting with the Leinster Intermediate Championship title.
Longford play Wicklow in the Leinster Final this Saturday in Arklow (throw-in 3pm). “I’m looking forward to it,” she told the Leader. “We are anxious to get back playing competitive games after playing a few challenges. You have got a league team and then a championship team and that’s what I have been using the challenge games for. I have been building a championship team since the league campaign came to a conclusion.”
Reigning All-Ireland Junior champions Wicklow will provide stiff opposition for Longford. O’Hora has been doing her homework on the Garden County and is well aware of their strengths. “They have been around for a long time and are very experienced. They have a lot of speed in their team and their full-forward Lucy Mulhall is a brilliant player. They also have a strong centre-half-forward along with two excellent midfielders and the Wicklow team are generally a good mix of experience.”
Mayo native O’Hora knows the impact an All-Ireland title can have on a team. Wicklow will come into this game full of confidence. She said, “After winning the Leinster Junior title last year and then going on to win the All-Ireland, Wicklow are in a good place with new players wanting to come in and there is a buzz. They have that extra experience playing at a high level and they know how to win matches. They are a team hungry for more success now and they will want to move on.”
Longford come into the game (themselves and Wicklow are the only teams in this competition and thus a straight final) on the back of a terrific league campaign. Their exploits didn’t go un-noticed and as well as O’Hora getting the Manager of the Month Award for April, five Longford players made the Division 4 National League Team of the Year.
The Longford manager is hoping the team can continue their impressive league form, although she admitted a few changes will be made for the championship. “I’d expect there will be four different changes in personnel to the side that started the league final. You pick a team to play a team. It depends on how things go. I have been trying out a few things in the build up to the Wicklow match and our preparations are going very well. Clonguish have given us their pitch for training which is great as that pitch is quite similar to the one in Arklow that stages the Leinster Final.”
A win on Saturday would be a boost and ideal preparation for Longford with the All-Ireland stages of the Intermediate Championship starting on July 1 with a home game against Tipperary while also in their group are Cavan, Roscommon and Sligo. “Championship football is all to play for,” said O’Hora. “The level and standard of Intermediate football this year is beyond anything it has been in the past and this is a competition that all the counties involved want to win.”