Longford manager Glenn Ryan saved me from scrapheap, says sharpshooter McCormack
LONGFORD sharpshooter Sean McCormack (26) says manager Glenn Ryan rescued his career from the scrapheap.
The former Kildare hero led Longford to consecutive league titles last Sunday and 26-year-old McCormack has top-scored in both finals.
But the Killoe star, known for his distinctive free-taking routine, revealed he had practically quit the game before Ryan arrived, and he initially rejected his advances.
"This thing has just come out of the blue for me in the last two years," McCormack said. "I've had an awful time with injuries for four or five years. Glenn Ryan called me in his first year, but I was injured at the time and I didn't take it up because I'd sort of given up on it.
"He rang me the following year (2009) and I owe him a lot. When a lot of lads wouldn't have had much faith in me, he really persuaded me to come in and gave me my chance. I'm really grateful to him."
McCormack, who scored 0-8 (6f) against Wexford last week, insisted Longford's rise from Division 4 to Division 2 in two seasons has been down to a huge team effort.
"We're not a big county, but we have a fantastic panel and everyone's willing to die for each other," he said. "One lad comes off and the next lad comes in. Paul Kelly came in (last Sunday) and got a goal straight away and that's what our panel is all about."
The man Kelly replaced last Sunday was McCormack's younger brother, Padraig (19).
"If you asked me five years ago if I was going to be playing on the county team with my brother, I'd never have believed you. It meant a lot," McCormack said.
He may stress the importance of Longford's team effort, but McCormack's role is vital, with his metronomic and unique free-taking routine from the hand, which sees him juggling the ball on his foot three times before lining himself up methodically, Johnny Wilkinson-style particularly eye-catching.
"It's all psychological, you just find something that you're comfortable with and stick with it," he said. "I had a break in my football when I was younger and I used the time to develop it.
"We had a few injuries in the camp and I'd always taken free-kicks for my club, so I was given the responsibility and I haven't looked back since."
Next stop for Longford is a massive Leinster championship rematch with Laois (May 20), to whom they lost by just a point last year when registering 16 wides.
Captain Paul Barden said it's time for Longford to grab their own destiny. "You can say we were unlucky last year, but you have to make your own luck," he said.
"That's been our downfall over the last few years; we've had opportunities to win these games but haven't. We have to turn that on its head this year."
But Barden gave his team-mates a huge vote of confidence by describing them as Longford's best squad in many years.
"They're definitely the best for the last 10 years, and maybe the 10 before that when I wasn't involved," said the 13-year county veteran.
"These are a seriously talented bunch of lads and we need to realise that and get over the (championship) line this year.
"A winning team is very important. Of course we can take momentum from our league win; we will go back into training with an extra pep in our step."