Monday 19 March 2018

Home comforts to lift Longford as they head towards dreamland

Longford boss Denis Connerton. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Longford boss Denis Connerton. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Longford have been boosted by the news that they will have home advantage for their All-Ireland football qualifier clash with Cork next Saturday (3.0).

With the stand in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park closed, it was feared that the game might have to be switched outside the county but the venue has been given the all-clear, with a total capacity of 4,800.

"We believe that will be enough," said Longford secretary Peter O'Reilly. Excitement is soaring in Longford after 'away' wins over Down and, even more impressively, Monaghan, who won two of the last three Ulster finals.

It leaves Longford one win away from reaching Round 4 of the qualifiers for the first time since 2006 when they lost to Kerry.

Their three-point win over Monaghan in Clones last Sunday was the biggest shock of this year's qualifiers so far, although manager Denis Connerton says they were reasonably confident they could build on the first round win over Down in Newry.

"We felt if we could stay with Monaghan until the later stages, they might tire after having had two very tough games with Donegal over the previous two weekends.

"Our lads are fresh and we knew they would finish well so it was a case of staying in contention for as long as possible and then pressing on. Thankfully, it worked," said Connerton.

The Longford landscape has changed dramatically since mid-May when the Leinster first round clash with Offaly ended in an eight-point defeat.

Unfortunately for Longford, they had to concede home advantage to Offaly because of capacity issues in Pearse Park.

There was also some disquiet in the run-up to the game, with Connerton annoyed over not being allowed more time with the squad due to confusion over club fixtures.

Despite the heavy defeat by Offaly, he only lost two of his squad to the US as part of the annual transatlantic exodus from counties beaten in the first round of provincial campaigns.

"Both of the lads were committed to going and we knew about it all along. Luckily, everyone else was around and we worked very hard at giving the qualifiers a real shot," said Connerton.

Wins over two Division 1 teams (although Down were relegated at the end of the league) have seriously raised Longford's stock but Connerton says it won't count for much unless they maintain progress against Cork.

"We need to have total faith in ourselves and go out and play with the same attitude we had against Down and Monaghan.

"It's still going to be massive task for us.

"Cork might not have been going as well as they were in recent years but when you look through their team, you quickly realise the amount of top talent they have.

"We know what we're up against," said Connerton.

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