On Saturday, Longford and Westmeath meet in the Leinster Football Championship for the first time in 14 years, having met three times in the previous twelve months.
In their past five championship meetings Westmeath have come out on top on four occasions with Longford last overcoming the Lakesiders in the first round of the Leinster Championship in 2007.
Jack Cooney is in his fourth season as Westmeath manager. They won three and lost four of their seven championship games over the last three seasons.
Its Longford manager Billy O’Loughlin’s first year in charge and he believes Longford are ready for the challenge posed by Westmeath.
“Preparation for the championship has been going very well with the players fully focussing on the game plan, the process and preparation for Westmeath”.
In their most recent competitive meeting at the beginning of March, it was Longford who prevailed in Mullingar in their National Football League clash, a result along with the final day win over Laois which which ensured that Longford retained their Division 3 status. Reflecting on the league performances Billy O’Loughlin stressed the importance having a full panel available.
“We almost had a full deck to pick from for the Westmeath and Laois games and they were our best performances, so although it was a bit of an up and down league for us, when the players came back into the fold things came together a bit more and we hope that we have improved as a team since then”.
Despite still having reservations about the uncompetitive nature of the Leinster Championship, Billy insists that Longford will be fully focussed on what lies ahead of them in this year’s championship.
“My opinion on the Leinster Championship is based on the factual evidence that there has been only one winner of it in the past 11 years but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we are treating tomorrow’s game against Westmeath like a cup final. We’re focussed 100% on championship now and it’s highly important that we perform tomorrow as we all know this game holds a huge value for teams and supporters from neighbouring counties”.
While it may not be the championship structure which he hoped for, Billy sees great value in the Tailteann Cup where the lesser counties can compete in a meaningful competition.
“Its a fantastic competition for the Division 3 and Division 4 counties, there’s a realistic chance of doing well where you are competing with teams that you have played against in the league and apart from tomorrow’s Leinster Championship game, the players are really looking forward taking part in the Tailteann Cup if that’s how the championship works out for us”.
Throw-in at TEG Cusack Park is at 6pm. No tickets will be sold at the venue. NO live streaming. Tickets available at https://www.ticketmaster.ie/event/18005C96DAED9A61
Last Five Championship Meetings
2008: Westmeath 2-10 Longford 1-10 (Leinster first round)
2007: Westmeath 0-18 Longford 0-9 (All –Ireland Qualifier)
2007: Longford 2-13 Westmeath 1-13 (Leinster first round)
1999: Westmeath 3-17 Longford 2-9 (Leinster first round)
1998: Westmeath 3-14 Longford 1-13 (Leinster first round)