The Peter Hanley Motors Longford Senior Football Championship enters it’s 105th year and it remains as competitive as ever as 12 teams enter the fray with the hope of bringing the coveted Sean Connolly Cup home.
Defending champions Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s will return as favourites as they seek a 5th championship in 7 seasons. Ciaran Fox’s side carry in great league form where they did not lose a game until the Johnny Skelly Cup final defeat to Colmcille.
League form will carry a lot of precedence into the championship as the same format is applied and by the luck of the draw the teams are split up much the same.
The teams in Group 2 of the championship will face the exact same teams except Carrickedmond will replace Dromard. Dromard enter Group 1 of the championship while St. Brigid’s Killashee return in place of Fr. Manning Gaels.
Dromard and Killashee open up Group 1 action on Saturday in C&D Devine Park and the north Longford outfit managed by Sean Hagan are heavily fancied here. Dromard have been a steady senior side since 1995 and were unlucky to be knocked out by a last minute Seamus Hannon goal in last year’s quarter final. Dromard will look to Longford GAA legends Francis McGee and Diarmuid Masterson for experience while Joe Hagan and Ross McNerney will provide for much of the firepower up front. Dromard also had 4 representatives starting on Longford U20’s disappointing narrow defeat to Meath. Matt Duffy, Aaron Farrell, Oisin O’ Toole and Fionn Hourican will supply pace and energy and showcase the benefits of the St. Francis/St. Colmcille’s team which reached two minor finals in the past 3 seasons.
Killashee became only the 4th team to win two Gerry Hennessy cups in a row when they took the delayed 2020 championship and 2021 championship last year. This was a fantastic achievement and the experience of winning those two championships will need to carry over as they face sterner opposition this year.
The clash between Dromard and Killashee is a curtain raiser to probably the clash of the weekend with Granard St. Mary’s up against Longford Slashers. Liam Keenan’s Longford Slashers finished second in their league group and were unbeaten against all teams bar Mullinalaghta. Former Longford and Ardagh stalwart Keenan is in his first year over the town side after a very successful tenure in Leitrim. The backbone of the team that played in two senior finals in succession remains with Barry Gilleran, Dermot Brady, Andrew Dalton and the four Clarke brothers in action. Former Ballymahon player Joe Kelly is also now plying his trade with the bigger town and he could make a massive difference at centre forward.
Darren Gallagher could be the best player on offer this weekend and he will be operating at midfield for Ryan Casey’s side Saturday. Granard will be resolute but will rely on the towering free taker to get off to their desired start. Casey can also call upon an exuberant attack with Jordan Sheils, Jordan Martin, Jamie Brady and Micheal Hynes all very capable of keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
Finishing up Group 1 action on Sunday afternoon in Higginstown will be Mullinalaghta and Mostrim in a repeat of last year’s county final. Ray Hussey and Eddie Doherty brought great excitement to Edgeworthstown as the local men lead their outfit to a first county final in 29 years. Mostrim carry one of the most potent attacking threats in the county with Brian Farrell, Darragh Doherty, Padraic Joyce and Tiernan Hussey extremely dangerous in front of goal. Mostrim are very experienced with a great habit of getting the job done thanks to clever players like Shane Kiernan and the two Coyle’s. The two Coyle’s look to have retired after years of service but Mostrim can look to some of their 2020 minor championship winners to replace them including last year’s county minor captain Ronan Courtney.
On Friday night, the Group 2 clash between Colmcille and Clonguish opens up the senior championship action for 2022 in a highly anticipated match in Maguire Park. Colmcille will come into the championship as dark-horses after surprising Mullinalaghta in the Johnny Skelly Cup final. Mickey Harkins took over from the great work done by Eugene McCormack over the past three seasons and they will be looking to top the group.
Colmcille bridged a 50-year gap to win the championship in 2008 and they still have Declan Reilly, Padraig Murtagh, Noel Farrell and Paul McKeon in action from their last final appearance 14 years ago. The genius of Declan Reilly is still blossoming and Harkins will hope to get the best out of him at centre-forward. Jack Macken, Cathal McCabe and Barry McKeon will be hard stopped up front while Enda Macken, Vinny Hourican and Fergal Sheridan provide physicality up the spine. Noel Farrell is in unfamiliar territory as he will line out in the goalkeepers jersey and will hope to kick-start his side’s championship with victory.
Clonguish will begin a championship season without one of the three Barden brothers for the first time in over 30 years after the retirement of the younger pair of Paul and David. Clonguish are in a transition period under the last manager to bring them a championship – Liam Belton. Belton will look to members of last year’s minor championship winning outfit as well as free scoring full-forward Jack Duggan. Doubling-up as club chairman and player, Ronan Sweeney will also be so important to Clonguish’s chances and he remains one of the best defenders in the county.
A double-header takes place in Allen Park on Sunday evening with Killoe Emmet Óg facing Rathcline and Abbeylara up against Carrickedmond. Both Killoe and Abbeylara will be strong favourites in these clashes against up and coming clubs Carrickedmond and Rathcline who are attempting to make a breakthrough from outsiders to contenders. Both Carrick and Rathcline lost key forwards to transfers this year as Aidan McGuire and Liam Connerton transferred to London and Dublin respectively. The loss of such forwards for these clubs cannot be understated and they will have to perform out of their skin to garner points this weekend.
Rathcline in the absence of Connerton will rely on the Kenny brothers and of course one of Longford’s star performers this year Iarla O’ Sullivan. Enda Lyons’ side can match Killoe physically and if they can remain composed in front of goal they can trouble Killoe who have been under strength for the league. Emmet Óg under the guidance of Thomas Donohoe will once again begin as one of the main contenders for championship glory. Killoe were down many during the course of league and didn’t make the semi finals of the Leader Cup but they will be hard stopped in the championship with the likes of Mickey Quinn, Daniel Mimnagh and Mark Hughes in their arsenal. James and Larry Moran will be missing for their opening round clash as well as Darren Moffet but his older brother Ronan will be important in midfield after an impressive year with the county set up.
Abbeylara’s trio Bryan Masterson, Ciaran Scanlon and Cathal Gilligan impressed for the Longford U20 side this year and in their second year under Ryan Plunkett are merging well with the spine of a team that competed in four final deciders in a row. Robbie Smyth will once again lead the attack with Michael McHugh, Colm P Smyth and Fergal Battrim most significant in an experienced defence. Abbeylara narrowly missed out on a semi-final place last year with a narrow defeat to Killoe and will hope to return to the decider this year with a well balanced outfit.
Facing Abbey are Carrickedmond who took a few scalps in the league once the county players returned. Barry O’ Farrell, Eoghán McCormack and Sean Kelly will be crucial to Stephen Coy’s fortunes Sunday when missing the injured Michael Cahill and McGuire, who recently moved to London. Target man David Shannon, pacy Kyle Kenny and county hurler Adam Quinn can also cause damage in attack. Carrick will be resilient in defence but will need to make their attacks count if they are to beat an experienced Abbey.
The Longford Senior Football Championship always provides great intrigue and this year will be no different with excellent games on offer this weekend. We would like to thank Peter Hanley Motors for their continued generous support and we hope we will see you this weekend as the championship kicks off in venues across the county.
Reminder: There will be NO tickets available at the grounds and you must buy your ticket online at https://longfordgaa.ie/tickets-clubs/