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The Impossibility Of Provincial Success - A Theory On The Secret To Success In The Qualifiers

The Impossibility Of Provincial Success - A Theory On The Secret To Success In The Qualifiers
By Conor Neville Updated

Longford's record in the qualifiers, long respected by those who've examined it closely, has attracted much greater attention since they claimed possibly their biggest scalp in the sixteen year history of the back-door last Saturday evening.

They beat Mayo by a point in Pearse Park in 2010 but the Mayo of 2010 were not quite the animal they became in the James Horan years. Even allowing for the notorious six day turnaround, Monaghan 2016 model were deemed to be in much ruder health.

What accounts for Longford's impressive record in the qualifiers? Could it result from a bizarre kind of fatalism? An acceptance that provincial silverware is a near impossibility and that the meaning of success is a decent run in the back-door?

Early round qualifier games tend to hinge on attitude more than anything else.

Teams who begin the year gunning for provincial silverware but who regard an All-Ireland as beyond them often have little stomach for a lengthy qualifier run once their provincial dreams are ended. Cavan in 2014 and 2015 could be a good example of this.

Longford, by contrast, enter the every championship season knowing they will be in the qualifiers sooner or later (usually sooner - they haven't reached a Leinster semi-final since 1988) and therefore they are usually well primed for the back-door. It's understood before a ball is kicked in summer that they'll be playing Saturday evening football in June and July.

Longford manager Denis Connerton hinted at this in an interview with Balls.ie yesterday. Dublin's presence in Leinster saps the morale of players in smaller counties, Longford especially, who had the misfortune to run into them last year.

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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.

Obviously, there are other counties that have accepted they'll be landed in the qualifiers sooner or later who haven't replicated Longford's success. Division 4 counties presumably begin the year with that expectation. The key is to be able to capitalise.

Read more: Longford Reveal They Were Well Aware Of The Irish Times' Dismissal Of Them Before Monaghan Upset


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