Sunday 18 March 2018

Longford's heavy schedule raises fears over league opener

Longford manager Denis Connerton. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Longford manager Denis Connerton. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

While the win over Dublin has brightened January's dark days in Longford, Denis Connerton is concerned that the heavy demands of a hectic schedule could leave his squad vulnerable in the early rounds of the Allianz Football League.

Longford are booked in for their fifth game in 21 days when they play Meath in the Bord na Mona Cup O'Byrne final in Navan on Sunday, and with two Division 3 games to come over the following two weekends, it's a very busy start to the season.

"We're certainly not complaining but we would have liked a longer break between the game with Meath and the start of the league.

"Our league preparations are being interrupted by the O'Byrne Cup and while it's great to be in the final, we have to be sure that we're ready for Offaly on Sunday week. You can be sure they will be ready for us," said Connerton.


Playing Dublin and Meath over successive weekends is all very exciting for Longford but it also brings heavy pressure.

"It took an awful lot of energy to survive against Dublin. We have a lot of sore bodies around. When Dublin come at you in full flow, you know you're in a game. It takes a while to recover from that," said Connerton.

"We now have to get ourselves right for Meath, who are a strong, powerful side too. The big fear is that unless we get it right, we could be drained going into the league."

Still, it's a challenge that he and his squad are more than willing to take on. And while they are not overplaying the significance of a win over Dublin, they are looking forward to a rich confidence dividend.

"Any time Longford beat Dublin, it's to be enjoyed. It was great to see a big crowd there because it's not something we're all that used to in Longford.

"Hopefully, it will encourage people to come back and support the team in the league. People enjoyed the buzz in the town on Sunday, but then you always get that when Dublin are around," said Connerton.

He believes it strengthens the case for taking some of Dublin's championship games away from Croke Park, something that will happen for the first time in ten years in June when they play Laois or Wicklow in Nowlan Park.

"Everyone knows there's a difference between playing away and at home. Even down to small things like getting up early to travel to games. It all counts," said Connerton, who is in his second spell as manager.

He believes it was hugely important for Longford to do stand firm against Dublin last Sunday after enduring a horrible beating in last year's Leinster Championship in Croke Park.

"Six of the lads who played that day started on Sunday. Happily, they had a better experience this time," he said.

Longford's Division 3 Fixtures

Jan 31: v Offaly (away)

Feb 7: v Limerick (home)

Feb 28: v Kildare (home)

Mar 6: v Sligo (away)

Mar 13: v Tipperary (home)

Mar 27: v Clare (away)

Apr 3: v Westmeath (home)

Irish Independent

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