Longford’s hopes of gaining promotion from Division 3 and a strong Championship run have been given a major shot in the arm by the news that key players Robbie Smyth and Barry McKeon will return to the panel.
The Irish Examiner understands the pair have informed manager Pádraic Davis that they will be available for selection when collective inter-county training commences from September 14.
Star forward Smyth left the set-up midway through the 2019 season prior to the start of the Leinster SFC.
The Abbeylara man is regarded as the best forward in the county and his presence will be a significant boost.
One of the most experienced members of the panel, Smyth’s fellow attacker McKeon exited the panel due to work and study commitments. The 27-year-old had been juggling a construction job while taking a one-year course in construction management in Athlone IT.
Speaking earlier this year, he explained his decision: “I was working 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Friday. I was doing the course from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and one Saturday a month. Then I was training with Longford on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. I thought I could have a stab at it, but I’d have had no life, no free time at all.”
Longford, who are set to face Louth in a Leinster SFC first round game on Halloween weekend, are currently in third place in Division 3 on the basis of having lost to second-placed Down who are also on seven points. They are three points adrift of table-toppers Cork, who likely need just one more point against relegation-threatened Louth to guarantee promotion.
Smyth and McKeon are the latest players to confirm they will be around for the 2020 Championship after it appeared they were going to sit it out. The Murtagh brothers in Roscommon, Ciarán and Diarmuid, have also signalled to Anthony Cunningham that they will be ready to go in October.
While earlier this month it was revealed that Tipperary pair Michael Quinlivan and Liam Casey would be back in the fold for the conclusion of the county’s Division 3 campaign in October and Munster SFC quarter-final against Clare.
It remains to be seen if Clare star midfielder Gary Brennan, who had intended on going travelling, will also change his mind but there are indications he will be part of Colm Collins’ squad for their final two Division 2 games and clash with Tipperary.