In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely writes that the Limerick footballers must show huge improvement if they’re to beat Longford.
The Limerick senior footballers will travel the same journey as they did last year when they face Longford on Saturday evening next in Pearce Park in Longford.
They do so as a result of losing heavily to Cork in the opening round of the Munster Championship and in so many ways this game carries even more importance than last year because I know the players and management want to atone for the manner of their defeat to Cork.
Limerick never came out of the blocks in that game and they looked well off the pace from an early stage. The management and players have moved on because time dwelling on the past will not yield results in the future.
This is a big game for Limerick and it won’t be easy to get a result in Longford. Longford are always difficult to beat on home soil even though Limerick did have the better of them last year. The sort of drive and work rate we would normally associate with this group of players was absent against Cork and if they show up in the same manner against Longford the result will be the same.
Over the past few weeks the team has refocused and they will have no fear of playing Longford but in saying that I do know that Longford feel they are in much better shape going into this game as against last year.
In general it’s been a dismal year for football so far and many of the weaker counties are struggling to keep pace with the major powers in the game, the mood on the ground is that change is afoot and unless weaker counties put their pride in their pocket they will have little say in what could be even bigger changes down the line.
Longford and Limerick are at about the same level and neither will be winning the All Ireland - other than the odd success both of these teams would be cannon fodder to the big teams and it begs the question how much longer can you keep playing a championship that you have little hope of winning?
From Limerick’s point of view Saturday’s game is about restoring some pride in Limerick football. The vibes on the local scene are as low as I have seen them for many years and having watched a fair few of the local championship games it would appear even those with an interest in football are not turning up to watch the games.
The mood within the Limerick camp is good and I am expecting them to really go at Longford from the opening minutes, Limerick strayed from their normal game against Cork but I’m pretty sure that will not be the case against Longford.
Limerick play best when they build from the back and take on the midfielders and half backs and from what I have seen in training they will not leave any stone unturned in an effort to bring a victory out of Pearce Park.
Longford have some quality players and Limerick manager Maurice Horan will know only too well that if the likes of Sean McCormack and Paul Barden are given space they will do some real damage.
Longford went out of the Leinster Championship in the first round having lost by two points to Wicklow. They had chances to win that game and the burning question locally in Longford is how the players will respond to the qualifiers.
From what I hear they are going very well in training and are anxious to make amends for last year because defeat will certainly see the end of Glen Ryan’s tenure as manager.
Maurice Horan, to his credit, didn’t make any excuses after losing to Cork and told me this week that the team is very focused towards the Longford game, “Look, we know where we stand and our main priority is to get the performance and from that anything can happen.
“We know what happened against Cork and I have to say the lads have applied themselves very well in training since then, this is a big game in many ways and we know what we have to do.
“It won’t be easy to beat them at home as we saw last year and while I believe we can win the game that won’t happen unless we play well and work very hard”.
Maurice Horan is very dedicated to the job as Limerick manager and winning in Longford last year put them back on the road, they came within inches of causing the biggest upset for many years when they left Kildare off the hook.
Horan will be hoping for a big response from his players this Saturday and if they can bring the work of the past few weeks to Longford they won’t be too far off.