Longford and Offaly rivalry ramps up to fever pitch
Gaelic football is not as brutal a sport as Conor McGregor's UFC cage fighting, but Longford's Brian Kavanagh delved into the pugilistic world for an appropriate metaphor to describe this time of year.
"We're at the business end of the season. All the shadow boxing is done now at this stage, thankfully," said Kavanagh as he reflected on a positive start to the 2015 season.
Unbeaten in Division 4, and with a League final to come against Offaly tomorrow night, Kavanagh can feel the pulse quicken in anticipation of some intense battles.
By May 16, Longford will have gone eyeball to eyeball against the Faithful County three times in seven weeks, and there's also the knockout format of the Dublin SFC to raise Kavanagh's blood pressure as Kilmacud Crokes prepare for their clash with Whitehall Colmcille.
And unlike McGregor, Kavanagh won't be shouting the odds or disrespecting opponents.
Jack Sheedy's Longford went through the Division 4 campaign unbeaten as they atoned for last year's relegation - beating 12-man Offaly along the way - but Kavanagh points out that the margins were tight in a lot of games.
"Starting off, we had to go to Carrick-on-Shannon (v Leitrim) and only for we got a point in the last minute we would have started off with a loss but momentum is a great thing," he said.
"We just beat Antrim by a point the following week.
"It took the pressure off us a small bit and then we got stronger in the League.
"We were disappointed last year that we got relegated so it's great to be back up to Division 3 now and we'll kick on from there."
One notable absentee from the side at Croke Park will be Paul Barden, a man who was for so long synonymous with Longford football.
"He's a huge loss. No doubt about it, he was one of our best performers again last summer," said Kavanagh.
Over the next few weeks, the Longford and Offaly players will build up a right head of steam as they go head to head twice more after their recent League outing, when Offaly had three men sent off.
No doubt the Faithful County will be highly motivated for this encounter, although both sides appreciate that their next meeting will mean more.
"It's always enjoyable to play in Croke Park," said Kavanagh. "Hopefully we'll round off the League as champions, but everyone has one eye on the championship a few weeks after that in Tullamore."
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