Knocking a tune out of adversity takes Longford up the charts

Pádraic Davis took over with injury and club commitments thinning resources

Longford manager Padraig Davis: “It’s a matter of getting the balance right. You can’t defend your way to victory.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Longford manager Padraig Davis: “It’s a matter of getting the balance right. You can’t defend your way to victory.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

The weekend’s AFL fixtures threw up a good few talking points from Kerry’s exciting win over Dublin to Leitrim’s 100 per cent record in Division Four. Yet arguably though the most eye-catching performance was Longford’s ultimately comfortable win in Carlow’s Dr Cullen Park and their status as Division Three table- toppers.

Pádraic Davis took over as manager of his county last autumn, and was fairly soon presented with a unique difficulty when county champions Mullinalaghta went on to become the first club from Longford to win the Leinster championship, thus depriving the county of a number of players.

Throw in some injuries, including to influential players Robbie Smyth and Pádraig McCormack, and the county featured on a few lists as likely to struggle.

“I suppose in terms of numbers it couldn’t have been any more difficult,” says Davis. “At one stage we were down about 17 players. Now it’s 14 players inclusive of the Mullinalaghta lads, but it’s now become a story about who we do have rather than who we don’t have. Those lads deserve great credit for that. They’ve given everything, and I couldn’t ask for more.

“They’ve gone above and beyond, particularly your established players who are well aware of the situation and know that they have to be even better to give ourselves a chance. So far, so good – five points out of six – but a long way to go, and at the beginning of the year promotion was always the target but we haven’t even secured our position in Division Three yet. We’re certainly not getting carried away.

“Your thought processes would have been ebbing and flowing. At the peak I thought we could be where we are, at the top of the league, and at the other end I was wondering are we going to win any game at all. That’s life, and that’s the way your mind works, but we stayed positive and played what was in front of us and worked incredibly hard.

“You know when you’re in your own little bubble it’s no great surprise, but to be honest it has been a surprise to many, including a lot of Longford people, that I’ve knocked a tune out of them so far.”

Attack

In the circumstances he could have been forgiven for devising the tightest of defensive systems with a view to hanging on until reinforcements arrived. At first glance that would appear to be what happened as only one county in the entire league – Fermanagh – can boast better concession statistics.

“We have one of the best defensive records in the country,” says Davis, “but I don’t see us at all as a defensive team. In possession it’s everybody commit to attack. Out of possession we get numbers back, but I like to play with at least four forwards and you won’t see us with 15 behind the ball.

“A lot of teams you see now have huge numbers committed defensively, but even though people looking at us conceding nine, nine and nine would say that we must be defensive but we’re anything but. It’s a matter of getting the balance right. You can’t defend your way to victory.”

Despite the attractive prospect of getting eight players back as soon as Mullinalaghta’s club campaign ends, Davis and the county can wait.

“If they win on Saturday [against Kerry’s Dr Crokes] they’ll be gone for another four or five weeks. But we’d happily take that!” 

* The GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee is likely to be in a position to take action in relation to the melee that erupted at the end of Saturday’s Kerry-Dublin league match in Tralee.

The scenes were captured by television cameras but it was hard to make out what had happened with crowds on the pitch. It is believed, however, that the committee will also have at its disposal some specific details from the referee’s report of match official Maurice Deegan.

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