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It's about time we beat Laois

REPETITIVE provincial disappointment has taught Brian Kavanagh to beware the false dawns of spring, but still... there is something pretty appetising about Longford going into Sunday's Leinster SFC opener with Laois.

Yet if Longford supporters are understandably optimistic, they are only cautiously so.

Successive promotions, a Division 3 title and home advantage against a Laois side which, at times, looked out of its depth in the shark-infested waters of football's top-flight mean that on the surface it looks primed for the first possible shock of the year.

Just how much a shock a Longford win would constitute is arguable but after exiting Leinster at the first hurdle in each of the last four seasons, Kavanagh isn't inclined to start counting chickens.

"We always put expectations on ourselves anyway every year," the Kilmacud Crokes man told the Herald. "Those expectations haven't gone away. Going back to 2007, we had huge expectation before playing Laois in Tullamore after beating Westmeath the first day and we lost by a couple of points.

"This year isn't much different. OK, we have momentum coming in off the league but the championship is a different kettle of fish. Laois are after playing quality teams in Division 1 all year.

"Yeah, there is expectations but they're good expectations and whatever happens outside the camp, we just think about our goals and we know if we perform for 70 minutes, we'll be there or thereabouts."

With no wins in Leinster since beating Westmeath in 2007, Laois would be the perfect victims.

There is the local rivalry aspect of the tie, the fact that Laois operated in Division 1 this year and, most importantly says Kavanagh, the O'Moore men have ended his Leinster involvement on no fewer than three occasions in his career, becoming something of a personal bête noire in the process.

"From a Longford man's point of view, we've struggled against them," he admits. "We lost to them in '07, we lost to them in '08 and we lost to them last year as well so that's three beatings I've experienced.

"Laois have had different expectations but it's about time we addressed it ourselves and try to get one over them because they have inflicted enough damage on us over the years."

The commencement of summer has a habit of making a mockery of spring form and thoughtful, calculated pre-championship predictions but Sunday will be an interesting test case.

Laois spent their League oscillating wildly between various shades of good, bad and ugly against the best football has to offer. For their part, Longford were wholly more consistent, necklaced together results and lifted a trophy, albeit in the less rarified air of Division 3.

Which, then, is the better preparation?

"Both of them have pros and cons," Kavanagh considers. "Laois are playing the best teams in the country in Dublin, Cork and Kerry and putting it up to them and unlucky to lose some of them.

"But I suppose we look at it from the point of view that it's hard to beat winning and getting that bit of momentum. Other years we've being going into the championship in hope rather than confidence so I suppose we would like to think we're a bit more confident that we can win a few games."

Now in his fourth year as Longford manager, Glenn Ryan has charted a near vertical arch in the league and taken a couple of results in the qualifiers -- most notably Mayo in 2009.

As yet though, his tenure has gone unmarked by a Leinster victory.

"Some managers come in and they have success straight away," Kavanagh explains. "You look at the likes of Mick O'Dwyer or Páidí Ó Sé when he was with Westmeath. Glenn was different in that it took him a couple of years to settle in."

Kavanagh has benefitted from the marriage and says he is a disciple of Ryan's view of the benefits of collective effort.

"When we all work hard," he adds, "we seem to get the rub of the green.

"Given our track record of falling at the first hurdle in Leinster in the last few years, we can't start thinking about dates in June or July. We need to focus on the 20th of May and winning that game," Kavanagh concludes.


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