Leinster Senior Football Championship Round One
Offaly v Longford
Saturday, O’Connor Park, 7pm
The pall that has settled over Longford heading into the summer would leave you in danger of forgetting that they just got promoted. Indeed, they finished top of Division Four and were the only team in the country not to lose a regulation league game. But that feels a while ago now.
In the interim, Longford have lost sure-shot free-taker Seán McCormack to college commitments and endured a drubbing from tonight’s opponents in the Division Four final. They head into the championship with no great certainty as to where they stand or what they are bringing into combat with them.
They've lost eight of the side that beat Offaly at this stage 12 months ago – McCormack, Paul Barden and goalkeeper Damien Sheridan chief among them. Considering them for the win here requires a leap of faith.
Longford retain a smattering of quality. Dermot Brady is a sticky defender, Mickey Quinn clearly has totemic qualities and Brian Kavanagh is all class in attack.
Offaly’s last win in the Leinster Championship came against Carlow eight years ago. It’s four years since they won any sort of summer game – a qualifier against Monaghan. It is true Pat Flanagan’s side is on the rise. It is equally true there wasn’t much further to fall.
They have a fully revamped inside forward line from this game last year and can call on full-back Paul McConway again after he missed that fixture through injury. Niall McNamee can win games on his own but the league final showed a promising spread of scorers.
All in all, the momentum looks to be with the home side. Longford have never won a championship match against Offaly in Tullamore and it’s hard to build a convincing case for them breaking their duck here.
Last meeting: May 18th, 2014, Leinster SFC first round, Pearse Park: Longford 0-19 Offaly 0-15 .
Match odds: Offaly 4/7; Longford 9/4; Draw 8/1.
Injuries: Offaly have a full deck; Longford have to do without Paul McKeon due to a shoulder injury.
Offaly: Alan Mulhall; Brian Darby, Paul McConway (capt), Daithí Brady; Niall Darby, Johnny Moloney, Joseph O'Connor; Graham Guilfoyle, Niall Smith; Eoin Carroll, Niall McNamee, Anton Sullivan; Bernard Allen, Nigel Dunne, William Mulhall.
Longford: Paddy Collum; Dermot Brady, Barry O'Farrell, Peter Foy; Colm P Smyth, Diarmuid Masterson, Enda Williams; Barry Gilleran, Kevin Diffley; Ronan McEntire, Michael Quinn, Shane Doyle; Ross McNerney, Brian Kavanagh, Francis McGee.
Just the ticket: Adults €20 (stand), €10 (terrace); Juveniles €5 (stand), €3 (terrace).
Referee: P O'Sullivan (Kerry).
Verdict: Offaly by three.