Longford looking forward to 'big challenge' of Derry in qualifiers
LONGFORD were regarded as the biggest winners when they drew Derry, with home advantage, in the first round of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers yesterday.
Longford's form and back-door history has already seen the Division 3 champions tipped as 'ones to watch'.
Their league title was followed by knocking Laois out in Leinster, where they were then pipped by Wexford in a replay, whereas Derry looked all at sea against Donegal last Sunday.
But Longford selector Padraic Davis played down expectations, warning yesterday that their reputation as 'back-door bandits' is somewhat exaggerated.
"We had a good run in 2006 alright that ended in Killarney, but we've actually never got as far in the qualifiers as counties like Westmeath, Wexford and Sligo," he stressed.
"Derry will be a tall order, we'll be under no illusions about that, but every team feels that having home advantage should be a little help to them so we are happy about that.
"We can't spend time lamenting the loss to Wexford, we have another big challenge now."
Home advantage helped Longford take Mayo's scalp in the qualifiers two years ago, and they pushed Kerry hard at Pearse Park a year earlier.
They were also at home when they shocked Derry in the third round in their odyssey to the last round in 2006, when Kerry finally ousted them, but Derry have also beaten them in the qualifiers, in 2002 in Pearse Park.
One side who got a much tougher draw yesterday was Roscommon, whose only consolation in facing Armagh is that they will be at home in Hyde Park.
It was a bit of a nightmare draw too for Westmeath, who find themselves again pitted against Louth, who have already beaten them twice this year.
Westmeath lost to the Wee County in Division 2, 0-12 to 1-6, and Louth just nicked it by a point (2-9 to 0-14) in their championship meeting, thanks to an injury-time goal by newcomer Daniel O'Connor.
Louth have struggled to get numbers since and had to cancel a training session last week, but Westmeath have lost captain Gary Connaughton, who left for work in the US yesterday.
And there is still no sign of Dessie Dolan, who scored four points from play in his 0-5 for Garrycastle on Sunday in their local championship defeat of Castledaly.
Two more of the first-round pairings are within a province.
Carlow, fresh from being beaten by Meath in a replay, travel to Laois, while Cavan have a difficult trip to Enniskillen to take on Peter Canavan's Fermanagh, though the latter have just been hit with the loss of forward Seamus Quigley.
The draw has also pitted several more sides who have already met in this year's Allianz League.
Wicklow, now without injured star Leighton Glynn, host Waterford, who put four goals past them in a shock Division 4 victory in Aughrim.
Tipperary against Offaly is also a league rematch between two sides relegated from Division 3. Offaly will not want for motivation as their last-round loss to Tipp (0-11 to 0-8) meant they went down with the Premier County -- and both counties have already replaced their manager this season.
While Saturday, June 30 is the date given, there is speculation that a couple of games could be moved to Sunday, July 1, when the dates, times and venues are confirmed later today.
All-Ireland SFC qualifiers -- Round 1, June 30 (first listed has home venue): Longford v Derry; Laois v Carlow;Westmeath v Louth; Roscommon v Armagh; Fermanagh v Cavan; Tipperary v Offaly; London v Antrim; Wicklow v Waterford.