Okay then, we pulled the O’Farrell County from the hat yesterday evening and will face them at Pearse Park in the first round of the qualifiers on Saturday week (at a time to be announced later today). So then, apart from their phlegmatic diction, what’s there to know about our midland opponents?
Well, courtesy of their county profile on Hogan Stand, we know that they have to their credit one NFL title (1966), one Leinster senior title (1968) and no All-Stars. But their minors did win Leinster as recently as 2002 (their third provincial title ever at this grade) so we can assume that some of that talent must have made its way through to the senior ranks in the years since then.
Longford are currently managed by Glen Ryan – yes, Glen with the big goofy mouth that dentists can normally only dream about – who captained Kildare to that near-miss with Sam back in 1998. He pulled on the bainisteoir bib for the Midlanders at the start of last year and promptly led them from Division 3 of the NFL to Division 4. They didn’t do too hot in the league this year either – winning just twice, drawing once and losing five times, which saw them end the campaign seventh in the basement division, with only London and Kilkenny below them in the table.
Like ourselves, Longford’s provincial campaign this year was short and far from sweet and, like us, they went under by four points in their first round tie. Longford were undone by Louth (who have since scalped Kildare as well) three weeks ago in Portlaoise but this was a game they could have won, as they shot thirteen wides on their way to that 1-11 to 1-7 loss. They were also hampered that day by the absence of star forward Brian Kavanagh, who had been due to line out but who failed a late fitness test.
Longford’s main claim to fame in the championship in recent years has been the way they’ve acted as a kind of booster rocket for Kerry in the qualifiers. They’ve met – and have been beaten by – the Kingdom twice in the backdoor in recent years and, on both occasions, Kerry subsequently went on to win the All-Ireland. It was against Longford in Killarney back in July 2006 that Kieran Donaghy first burst onto the scene in the full-forward role that he emphatically went on to make his own later that year (as we can all, to our chagrin, attest). Kerry really clocked Longford that day but they were far less impressive beating them last summer, in a bizarre contest at Pearse Park where Kerry failed to register a single score for the final 34 minutes of the game, eventually easing home by just four points. And they still went on to win the All-Ireland, the jammy hoors.
Saturday week’s meeting between our two counties will, of course, be the first time we’ve come up against them in the championship. Our most recent meeting in the league was (with thanks to ontheroad for pointing this one out to me as I completely missed it when first writing this up earlier on) back in March 2004 when we beat them by 0-16 to 0-8 in a Division 1A clash in Ballina. From the current squad, only Ronan McGarrity and Billy Joe lined out that day, with Pat Harte and Andy Moran also coming on as subs. Prior to that encounter, you have to go back to November 1990 to find a match between us – that one was a Division 2 meeting down in Crossmolina where we came out on top by 2-11 to 0-4. The last time we met at Pearse Park was in February 1989, also in Division 2 of the league, where we won on a scoreline of 2-11 to 2-5. Such an outcome would, I reckon, do just fine the next day as well.