Although Longford have secured back-to-back wins in their previous Division 3 games against Tipperary and Sligo, manager Denis Connerton is cautious about their trip to take on Clare in Ennis on Easter Sunday, throw-in 3pm.
Speaking to the Leader Connerton said: “Clare’s defensive record this year is top class, the best in Division 3. We would love to have a record like that. The highest score they conceded (0-15) was the one point defeat away to Offaly in their last game. We have to cut out giving away possession and conceding goals.”
The Clara fixture is some ways comes at a bad time for Longford - they had a break after the Tipperary game – and the Longford boss would have liked the game to be played last weekend. “We don’t control the fixtures but we had gained momentum, winning two games in a row. There is a good atmosphere around the place, a real good mood in the camp, and fellas are putting in a great effort.”
Following the U-21s early exit from the Leinster Championship, Connerton has brought in a few of those players into the senior set up and he believes this can only be good for the players and the rest of the squad: “They are going to get stronger and are a big help to us. We will improve with those lads and they will also get better with the experience gained.”
Connerton admits it is not about the starting 15 but the squad, something that players have to realise according to the manager. “I think fellas have got to accept it’s about a squad now, more so than a team. You need more than just the 15 players who start each game. Lads know that it has to be a squad effort. Fellas are inclined to leave the squad when they are not being played or in the first 15. That attitude has got to change.”
Longford have a young squad but with that there is a downside and Connerton once again mentioned the attraction of the US for the younger players: “We are very young so that means we have to work very hard and get much fitter than we are. The fact that we are young concerns me because the lure of America is there for young lads once their college exams are over. We hope that won’t happen to us.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s crucial game, Connerton knows that Clare will make it difficult for Longford. He hopes his side can put in a performance they are capable of but it will be a battle: “It will be difficult. Clare will be disappointed after losing narrowly to Offaly and they will be looking to getting back to winning ways by beating Longford and particularly so after the setback they suffered in the All-Ireland Qualifiers last year. They will have little motivation or talking to do in their bid to gain revenge against Longford and we know it will be one hell of a battle. We just got to go down and perform and take it from there.”