Longford senior hurling manager Derek Frehill wants his team to improve their performance level in 2020
Longford senior hurling manager Derek Frehill has been given a boost ahead of the league campaign with the number of players available to him. Several new players have joined the panel while the experienced Martin Coyle has made a welcome return.
Last year Longford struggled with numbers but this year will be different according to Galway native Frehill: “We have a better stretch of players; our panel of players are a little bit ahead of what we had last year and obviously we have a stronger side. Last year at the end of the championship we had 19 players. I’d expect this year we’ll have 25/26. It keeps things fresher and it’s good competition for players.”
Having small numbers to work with is difficult for the management team and also for players themselves. Numbers have been very good at training sessions for Longford so far this year.
The Longford boss said, “Small numbers make training difficult. Organisation is the biggest thing. When you are dealing with smaller numbers it’s very difficult; the drills you want to do (the intense ones) and tackling requires numbers. You can’t have the same guys on all the time. Luckily this year, especially now since Christmas, the numbers have been good and we are still getting the odd number back. Martin Coyle is back training too which is brilliant.”
Coyle was captain of Longford in 2014 and is a real leader on and off the pitch.
Frehill is delighted to have the Wolfe Tones player back, “You know when you are putting him out on the pitch, you know what you are going to get. He’s not going to be bullied or lack experience. He has been in the trenches before. It’s great having an additional body like him and the other lads who will be back in the next number of weeks.”
Having players like Coyle around the dressing room is great for the younger players and some of the experienced ones too.
Frehill added, “When the likes of Martin come back, it gives other lads a lift. Even from a management point of view it’s great to see that players think this team is going somewhere and you have lads wanting to join us. It’s a change from what we have seen in recent years.”
One thing previous managers have lamented about is players don’t get enough hurling in Longford. It is a great honour to play for your county and Frehill knows once it’s all over, you wish you could go back and do it all again.
He said, “One of the messages we are trying to get across to the lads, especially the older ones, is that they’ll be retired long enough. Once you hit the age of 39 and 40 you wish you were back doing it all again. These lads when they retire can look back on playing in a league final and winning it, like we did last year and hopefully having a good championship this year. These are things you’ll remember.”
Frehill admitted that there is a huge commitment playing inter-county hurling and for the new players coming in, it is a huge change from playing club hurling.
“For younger lads coming in it is difficult when we bring them into the environment where we are training 3 to 4 sessions a week and are expecting them to do one session themselves. Where the club is fun and you are going down to puck the ball around. You are trying to bring it to a professional level. The young lads are good and they are committed. There are social demands but at the end of the day they are representing the county. It’s important for us as a management team that we deliver. You need to take it seriously.”
Last year Longford gained promotion to Division 3A and retained their Nicky Rackard Cup status for another year. Although Longford won Division 3B Frehill was disappointed with their lack of consistency when it came to performances.
“The frustrating thing for us last year we know these lads have potential and can mix it with teams, it’s just trying to get consistency. Confidence is a big thing too and it’s something we are trying to instil in the lads. They are good enough but haven’t been playing at that level for long enough or tested enough for them to realise they are as good as they are.
“That’s our key. We won the league last year but we would be very disappointed with our performance, we felt there was more in us. We showed glimpses of it last year but not enough of it, hopefully this year we will.”
Longford start their league campaign away to Monaghan on Sunday. Louth, Armagh, Donegal and Tyrone are also in their division.
Frehill knows what to expect from the Northern teams “The Northern style of hurling is good; very physical and the guys are always very fit and strong. Collectively as a group we feel we have better individuals than the Northern teams but they play very well as a collective where we haven’t. We have to get that right. They love their hurling and love playing for their county. If they get a run on you, they are hard to stop. We are not going into unknown territory; we know these teams well.”
Allianz NHL Division 3A Fixtures
January 26: Away to Monaghan
February 2: Home to Louth
February 16: Home to Armagh
February 23: Away to Tyrone
March 1: Home to Donegal
Management team: Derek Frehill (manager), Rob Nolan, Eamon Cleary, Mick O’Rourke, Alan Wade and Paul Hession
How Longford did in 2019: Won Division 3B by defeating Sligo in the final
Players unavailable/retired from 2019: Cian Kavanagh and John Mulhern (both travelling), Daire Duggan (football), Alan Sorohan and Shane O’Brien (both injured)
Young players to watch out for: Adam Quinn, Ian Campbell, Shane Farrell and William Tunstead
Captain for 2020: Not announced yet
Players currently injured: Karl Murray (knee)