Key man: Longford defender Patrick Fox in action against Offaly during the O'Byrne Cup Final win at Bord an Móna O'Connor Park Picture: Declan Gilmore
Newly crowned O’Byrne Cup champions Longford will begin their Allianz National Football League Division 3 campaign this Sunday when they host Louth at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park (throw-in 2pm).
Our coverage of Longford's Allianz National Football League campaign is brought to you in association with Supermac's Longford
The tie will be preceded by the Lidl Ladies National Football League match between Longford and Down at 12 noon and the double header should attract a decent sized attendance.
Sunday’s encounter is a dress rehearsal for the opening round of the 2020 Leinster Championship where Longford and Louth also collide and the reward for the winners is a quarter-final against Laois.
Also read: St Mel’s College Longford crowned Leinster champions once more
Recent contests between the counties have been tight affairs. In the opening round of the 2019 NFL, Longford, minus the club-tied Mullinalaghta St Columba’s contingent, made the trip to Drogheda to face Louth and they managed to grind out a hard earned 1-8 to 0-9 victory.
Late points from three substitutes, Darragh Doherty, Joseph Hagan and Nigel Rabbitt, ultimately sealed the deal for Padraic Davis’ charges.
Louth had two players red carded, Tommy Durnin and Conor Early, and that didn’t help their cause.
Prior to that league clash, Longford and Louth also met in the O’Byrne Cup and it was honours even at Pearse Park, 1-16 apiece.
On the back of the O’Byrne Cup success, which included a semi-final win over Dessie Farrell’s Dublin, the Longford men will have a pep in their step, whereas Louth’s O’Byrne Cup performances were patchy.
The ‘Wee County’ defeated Meath in round one by 1-9 to 0-10 but were soundly beaten in the subsequent rounds by Offaly (1-16 to 1-10) and Westmeath (1-13 to 0-11).
Conor Grimes and Fergal Donohoe will likely miss out through injury, but Louth manager Wayne Kierans is happy with where his squad is and has shaken off any sense of pressure in the aftermath of those disappointing results against Offaly and Westmeath.
Captain Bevan Duffy is in line to get his first start of the season, possibly at midfield, with Ryan Burns and Ciarán Byrne in contention for places in the forward line.
The Louth boss is bullish about his side’s chances, but stressed that the outcome against Longford, whether positive or negative, won’t dictate the overall course of the campaign.
“We definitely feel it’s a winnable game, if a tough game as we saw last year. We want to start off with a really strong performance and to get the win, but it’s not critical in terms of where we want to go. Last year was a prime example, we didn’t get the win against Longford on the first day, but went particularly close to getting promoted.”
The third tier of the Allianz NFL - which also features Offaly, Leitrim, Down, Tipperary, Derry and Cork - is ultra competitive and Longford captain Michael Quinn admitted : “We have a three week block (of games) coming up. We have four home games this year and hope to take advantage of that.”
Louth, Offaly and Leitrim are Longford’s first three opponents in consecutive weeks and you can be certain that Padraic Davis and his players will be keen to pick up victories in these assignments.
Kevin Diffley, who went off injured on Saturday, is facing a fight to be fit and Longford will be hoping that Michael Quinn, Gary Rogers, Patrick Fox, Daniel Mimnagh and Darren Gallagher can maintain their rich vein of form.