The Longford senior football management team(L to r): Paul Barden, Padraic Davis and Donal Ledwith. Photo: Declan Gilmore
Longford manager Padraic Davis insists that his charges will be ‘giving it their best shot’ as they make the short trip to Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, Tullamore to face familiar opponents Offaly in the O’Byrne Cup Senior Football Tournament decider on Saturday afternoon (throw-in, 2.45pm).
The final brings together two Division 3 counties starved of senior provincial silverware and while they will cross paths again in a crunch round two national league clash, on February 2, also in Tullamore, don’t expect either of them to be holding anything back.
Indeed, the third tier of the Allianz NFL is ultra competitive and it also features Louth, Leitrim, Down, Tipperary, Derry and Cork, and you can be certain that Davis will want his players to hit the ground running as they aim to consolidate their status and what better to way to do that than with competitive matches.
Longford opened the O’Byrne Cup campaign with wins over Kildare (0-14 to 2-14 away on December 7) and Carlow (1-13 to 0-10 at home on December 15), and they lost to Wicklow (2-9 to 0-14 away on January 4) in the final round in a fairly meaningless fixture as they already had their semi-final spot on the bag.
Last Saturday, they claimed Dublin’s scalp, 1-13 to 3-6, much to annoyance of a small section of the travelling supporters to Glennon Brothers Pearse Park whose antics, let’s be honest about it, have no place in the GAA or any sporting arena for that matter.
It's been 20 years since Longford won the O’Byrne Cup and Davis, along with his selectors Paul Barden and Donal Lediwth, was part of that winning team. He is looking forward to the final joust with John Maughan’s Offaly.
“It’s what these games do for us in bringing us on. If we can stay clean on the injury front I’m delighted we are getting another game. It’s a final.
“Trophies don’t come around too often in this county. If we are in with the chance of winning a cup whether it’s an O’Byrne Cup or otherwise. It's been 20 years since we have done it. We are 70 plus minutes away from doing that now and we will be giving it our best shot.”
Longford last contested the O’Byrne Cup Final in 2016, losing to Meath at Pairc Tailteann by 1-17 to 1-11.
Offaly and Longford drew in the 2019 NFL and there won’t be very much in it on Saturday either. Under Maughan, Offaly feel they are progressing steadily and on home soil they’ll be keen to claim silverware.
Longford won’t be undaunted by the challenge and if they can tighten up in defence and stop leaking goals, then they’ve every chance of bridging the two decade wait for success in this tournament.