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It's Time We Pay Attention To Longford's Magnificent Record In The Qualifiers

It's Time We Pay Attention To Longford's Magnificent Record In The Qualifiers

The third Sunday in September is generally believed to be Kerry's fiefdom - albeit having been subject to a mid-2000s coup by Armagh and Tyrone, and now under immense pressure from Dublin.

But further down the food chain, Longford have annexed the second (okay, sometimes third) weekend in June all for themselves. For no county has quite the same record in the first round of the qualifiers as Longford.

They have now won nine first-round qualifiers in a row. In all, since the qualifiers began in 2001, Longford have won twelve and lost just four of their first round qualifiers.

Granted, this record does have the important caveat of simply being there. Longford have shown a slavish devotion to losing in the Leinster Championship, and have not been past a Leinster quarter-final since the new system began.

It's an unprecedented run of provincial difficulty, albeit skewed by the sheer size of Leinster: they are the only county to have populated every single round one qualifier draw.

But for all of their Leinster drudgery - a series of defeats to Louth, Laois, Westmeath, and Offaly, punctuated by the occasional preliminary round win and the cauterized, wonder-what-the-whole-thing-is-all-about hammering against Dublin - Longford have been invigorated by the novelty of the qualifiers.

After their ambush of Monaghan last year, Manager Denis Connerton told Balls that he reckons Longford often play better on Saturday evenings:

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The qualifiers are serious Championship football. It's all or nothing, whereas when you're playing in Leinster you've got this huge giant looming there, in Dublin. That would play on young men's mind, I think: they would be feeling we can win a game here, maybe we can win two games, but somewhere along the line your reward is to play Dublin in Croke Park. They have exceptional players at the moment and they are extremely hard to beat.

In the qualifiers - it's a marvellous competition and some of the greatest Longford performances have been there. It is Saturday night football: Longford seem to play well on Saturday nights. There might be a better atmosphere [surrounding Saturday night games] and you're playing teams you might be playing teams you normally wouldn't be playing against.

The shadow Dublin cast over Leinster is considerable, and it reaches as far as the small county nestled between borders with Connacht and Ulster.  Perhaps they feel shackled and separate in Leinster, sitting around irritably like a teenager dragged along to some annual family gathering, wasting a perfectly good summer's day.

But when the dusk creeps across the sky, Longford come into life. Around their remarkable qualifier runs have reeled some fallen giants: Down and Monaghan were both beaten away from home last year; Derry have twice felt the brunt of Longford's June momentum; while John O'Mahony's Mayo reign found an inauspicious end in Pearse Park in 2010, as Longford brought the country to heel with a win against a Mayo side featuring Donal Vaughan, the O'Shea brothers, Alan Dillon, Andy Moran, David Clarke, Keith Higgins, and Kevin McLoughlin.

Only Wicklow, Sligo, Laois, and Donegal have successfully evicted Longford from the first round of the qualifiers. The latter of those sides will be strong favourites to repeat the trick in Ballybofey in Round 2, but they are fighting at a weight at which Longford have pedigree, and above all, momentum.

Write Longford off at your peril.

See Also: The Round 2A Qualifier Draw Throws Up Banana Skins For Mayo & Donegal

See Also: Carlow Sport Is Absolutely Flying, And It's Time We Paid Attention

 

 

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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