The Longford hurlers commence their 2023 Lory Meagher Championship campaign this Saturday when they travel to Birmingham to take on Lancashire at 4pm.
The competition features the five teams that competed in Division 3B which were Longford, Cavan, Leitrim, Lancashire, & Warwickshire, plus Monaghan who finished third in Division 3A.
Ahead of Saturday’s crucial contest, the Longford manager, Adrian Moran spoke to Tony Ghee and Adrian started the interview by comparing last year’s match scheduling with that of the current year.
‘Last year, we played our opening championship match the week after narrowly losing the league final to Fermanagh and with the heavy fixture schedule, fatigue had set in and we were both physically and mentally drained away to Leitrim. It was hard to get the injured players fit and the rest of the squad adjusted in such a short space of time. We had beaten Leitrim twice in the league but lost out by a point in that championship opener.
However, this year, the fixture scheduling has been much kinder and the three-week gap between the league semi-final defeat and this Saturday’s contest gives us an opportunity to get the lads physically right and mentally prepared. It has definitely benefitted us as we have been carrying a lot of injuries the last number of weeks. Unfortunately, John Mulhern won’t make it back in time for the Lancashire game with his finger injury, Pat Burke has bruised ribs, and David Buckley has a hip injury and bruised bones, so we are injury heavy, but the break has been a huge benefit to us’
Longford defeated Lancashire in their league encounter by eight points at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, but Adrian is expecting a much tighter contest on Saturday.
‘We will be missing one or two players for the game and I expect Lancashire to be much stronger than when we beat them in the League. They were missing four or five starters against us that day, so it will be a massive test for us and I expect it to be a close match that will go down to the wire. It would be great to snatch a win to set us up for our home game against Warwickshire the following week.’
Despite the injured players already mentioned, the good news is that Keelan Cox has returned to the squad and Michéal Mulcahy is also back training, news that Adrian is delighted with.
‘It’s great to see them both back. Keelan has got some minutes under his belt in the latter stages of the league and he brings a brilliant energy with him. It might just be that little bit early for Michéal to feature against Lancashire, but we will see.’
Adrian also acknowledged the importance of bringing in good young talent each season, and both Dan Crossan and Matthew Hawes are young players who are experiencing senior inter-county hurling for the first time, but both have performed well.
‘It’s very important to add fresh new talent to a squad especially with a small panel. We have given game time to as many players as we could during the league. At this level, it’s a very physical game and the ball does not move as fast as it does at the higher levels, so you have to be tuned in all the time. It’s a big test for young lads coming in, but both have performed well for us and are very talented hurlers.’
Adrian agreed that Monaghan would be favourites to win the Lory Meagher this year after playing at a higher level and finishing third in that Division 3A.
‘Absolutely. They played a division above us and they experienced a higher standard of hurling and had a good campaign, so I would consider them favourites for the Lory Meagher. After that, I believe that every other team are on a par with each other and it will just come down to who is available for selection on match day.’
With five matches in the Lory Meagher Cup, that means that some teams will only have two home games, and Longford are one of those teams who drew the short straw in that regard and yet again Longford have to face both Leitrim and Monaghan away. Adrian gave his thoughts on the issue.
‘Only having two games is just the luck of the draw, but yes, it is strange that we are away to both Leitrim and Monaghan again this year. You would think a home and away arrangement would be in place as much as possible. Having said that our best display in the championship came when we beat Monaghan against the odds in Inniskeen. I hope that the team put in the performances in the Lory Meagher that their hard work and dedication deserves, and that is all you can ask for.’
Photo courtesy of Syl Healy