Saturday 18 November 2017

Plucky underdogs enjoy the moment

Eamonn Sweeney

The advent of the championship will swiftly consign this year's League to the dustbin of history. Yet the understandable obsession with the bigger competition shouldn't obscure some real and meaningful achievements, especially from counties unlikely to be involved at the business end of the championship.

Longford's Division 3 title represented a superb achievement for that plucky little county. They played nine games, winning eight and drawing one in a campaign which included wins over traditionally more powerful neighbours Roscommon and Cavan and culminated in a thrilling Croke Park final victory against Wexford.

Most notably, Longford's League confirmed the emergence of Seán McCormack as one of the most exciting forwards in the country. The League achievements of both team and player will soon be forgotten elsewhere but they'll be properly cherished in Longford, especially given the way the provincial campaign discriminates against them.

Because while they might well have sneaked a couple of Connacht titles had they moved a few miles over the Shannon in the past decade, Longford are unlikely to make the breakthrough in Leinster.

The same goes for Wicklow who should be very happy with their Division 4 title, given the paucity of silverware in the county. Their upset victory over Fermanagh in the decider suggested there is life after Mick O'Dwyer and that the great Kerryman laid down some solid foundations before his departure.

At the other extreme, Cork's third League title in a row hasn't exactly sent the Rebel County into a bacchanalian frenzy but it's a notable achievement nonetheless. Cork's run is a tribute to their consistency, conditioning and competitive focus.

Longford and Wicklow adopted the correct attitude towards the League. There's no point in writing off a Division 3 or 4 title when it's the only thing you've got a hope of winning this year.

It's interesting that when Longford drew Laois in the championship two divisions separated the teams. The same went for Wicklow and Meath. Now the teams are ostensibly at the same level. The meeting of the former pair at Pearse Park on May 20 and the latter at Dr Cullen Park a week later should provide the most conclusive test of how much League form matters in the championship.

That should set the summer going pretty nicely.

Sunday Indo Sport

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