The Longford hurlers travel to Birmingham’s Páirc Na hÉireann this Saturday to take on Warwickshire in Division 3B of the Allianz National Hurling League with both sides looking for their opening points of the league campaign.
Warwickshire have lost both their matches to date, losing at home to Leitrim by nine points and then going down by eleven points away to Cavan.
Longford are also pointless having lost narrowly by two points to Cavan at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park in their only fixture to date.
The Longford panel has been depleted by numerous absences from last year’s squad that reached both the Division 3B League and Lory Meagher Championship Finals.
Niall Moran, Joe O’Brien, Enda Naughton, and Cian Kavanagh have now been added to the list of players who have left the panel, while Michéal Mulcahy is a long-term injury concern.
Warwickshire will be looking to the likes of wing-back Michael Holland, and full-forwards, Luke Hands and Brandon O’Sullivan to help them record their first win of the season.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash, Tony Ghee spoke with the Longford manager, Adrian Moran, and Adrian acknowledged that the loss of up to ten players from last years’ squad has had a big impact on preparations, but he emphasised that the current squad are capable of winning the league and that the narrow defeat against Cavan could have easily been a win.
‘Yes, I suppose, even from the starting fifteen that played in Croke Park last year, there are five of those guys gone, but you work with who you have in the panel, and the lads are putting in a huge effort in training and just came up short against a Cavan team that have a very strong squad compared to what they had last year. Against Cavan, our second ball let us down a lot and we conceded twenty-four or twenty-five frees, and when you concede that many frees in a competitive match, you are going to find it very hard to come out as the winning team, especially as Canice Maher was so good with those frees, especially the twenty-yard one that he fired to the net. So, we didn’t help ourselves, and yet we only lost by two points in the end in a game that we could have won.’
Longford led by three points at half-time, and although Maher scored 1-02 in the early stages of the second-half, Longford rallied with four unanswered points, only for Cavan to pull level coming down the stretch. However, when Longford pulled two points clear in the closing stages, it looked like Longford would hold on for victory before Cavan’s late, late show snatched victory for the Breffni men. Adrian agreed that he thought Longford had done enough to come out victorious, but the concession of frees ultimately proved Longford’s downfall in the clutch stages of the contest.
‘Yes, it did look like we had done enough, but again it boiled down to the concession of frees and the high quality of the free taking cost us in the end. Our work rate in patches was very good and our hunting of ball was also very good in patches, but we were not consistent enough for long enough. However, the lads gave it their best shot and that is all you can ask for.
Our panel is small at the moment and we only had twenty-two or twenty-three togged out against Cavan, and even at training, you can’t play fifteen v fifteen, which is reality, and that prevents us from practising some match scenarios. Cavan had a very poor year last year, but they have regrouped and have over thirty on their panel with Ollie Bellew back at the helm, and he took them to a Croke Park final two years ago, so they are building momentum and have also won their second
match against our opponents on Saturday, Warwickshire, but we move on now and Warwickshire is our sole focus.’
Adrian will be missing Saturday’s game in Birmingham as he is recovering from back surgery, and everyone connected with Longford GAA wishes Adrian a speedy recovery. No doubt, Adrian will be back in the dug-out for the next home game against Lancashire on Saturday, March 11th.
Tickets are available from https://am.ticketmaster.com/gaa/23PH2502