Longford ready to hit next level – Sheedy
Former Dublin star confident he can build on promise of home form and U-21 success
FORMER Dublin star Jack Sheedy took his first formal steps in inter-county management by meeting most of the Longford players last night.
The only absentees were the Longford Slashers men who are preparing for their Leinster club championship second-round clash with Portlaoise on Sunday.
"I spoke to some of the Slashers players, and told them I don't want to interfere with what they're doing at the moment," said new Longford boss Sheedy.
"Whenever their journey finishes for them, we'll sit down and have a chat. In the meantime just let them enjoy what they're doing and we won't be interfering with them."
Sheedy is in the process of finalising his back-room team for the senior panel. He will also be taking charge of the Longford U-21s and has already confirmed the management group for that squad.
"Barry Horgan will be doing the strength and conditioning with the seniors and U-21s, and he'll be assisted by Paddy O'Connor, who does a lot of the work with the Slashers," he said.
"Frank McNamee and Liam Belton, two Longford stalwarts, will be involved, and they have particular responsibilities with the U-21s. They will also have an input into the development of the U-21s going forward into the seniors as well.
"On the senior management side, I just have to tie down the last few details."
Sheedy (51) has plenty of experience of management at club level, and was part of the back-room team which brought Dublin the All-Ireland Junior title in 2008. The job with Longford offers a new platform to test himself on the national stage, and he's ready for the challenge.
Sheedy missed out on the 1995 All-Ireland success because of a cruciate knee injury, but he started the year as part of the panel, and joins fellow '95 men' Jim Gavin (Dublin) and Paul Bealin (Westmeath) as senior inter-county managers for 2014.
Bealin has managed Wexford and Carlow, while Gavin made a sensational breakthrough in his first year as a county boss with Dublin by winning the National League, the Leinster championship and the All-Ireland this year.
Other notable '95-ers' Mick Deegan, Paul Clarke, Mick Galvin and Dessie Farrell have operated in Dublin county management teams at senior and underage grade, while Paul Curran guided Ballymun Kickhams to the Dublin and Leinster club titles in 2012-13.
The contribution of players from that era also extended to club management, so did Sheedy feel he was overdue for the move to a county side?
"I wouldn't say I was overdue. I kind of had in my mind that if an opportunity and the right circumstances came up, I'd give it some serious consideration," he said.
"It's not necessarily that I was going out chasing a county job, but I spoke to different people in the last couple of years, and it was something that was starting to emerge in my thinking.
"If the right situation came up, then I would give it consideration, and now the opportunity has presented itself, and I'm looking forward to it."
Why Longford – what attracted him to the job?
"I spoke to some of the lads in Longford. They contacted me and it went from there when they were putting their process together to identify someone to take over from Glenn (Ryan)," he said.
"My name was produced because I had spoken to Westmeath during their interview process. I would always have been aware of Longford over the years because in Leinster panels and Leinster Railway Cup teams they always had guys involved. We played challenge matches against Longford and they always produced good players.
"They were operating from a smaller pool than ourselves in Dublin but they always produced good quality, and we never got a handy match. Looking at the current set-up, they've a core of very good players. There's great experience there, and an U-21 team that have shown some very good promise in getting to a Leinster final."
Sheedy has fine credentials as a player: he won two National League medals and five Leinster championships with Dublin, as well as playing in the 1994 All-Ireland final. He won his All Star that year.
As a manager he has brought success to Edenderry (Offaly Division 2 title), Kildare's Moorefield (county senior title 2010), and he also managed his own club Lucan Sarsfields as well as the Dublin Juniors.
It's a varied and progressive CV, so how does he evaluate the task of guiding Longford through Division 3, and their championship opener with Offaly?
"Longford have produced some good performances over the last few years with much the same group of players, and you're trying to add a few younger lads to them every year," he said.
"They gave Kerry a fright, and came very close to Tyrone a few years ago as well. Pearse Park is a bit of a fortress for Longford generally so that's something we'd like to continue and try to build on. Hopefully we'll instill that extra belief and confidence from the management side of things, and look to extend that through performance and results."
The confident football and the fitness Longford Slashers displayed in Sunday's Leinster victory over Wicklow's Rathnew is another positive aspect for the new manager.
"I was very impressed with Longford Slashers against Rathnew. They played a good brand of direct football, combined with a lot of very good score-taking. They were just too lively for Rathnew and they can go forward against Portlaoise with a lot of confidence next weekend," said Sheedy.
"Then there's Killoe, who were county champions last year and who went to the Leinster club semi-final last year. They've obviously got a good strong side. It bodes well for Longford football that there are several teams up there contesting at a high level."