Former Longford manager Glenn Ryan has dismissed the suggestion that the county are on a damage limitation mission against Dublin tomorrow afternoon.
Jack Sheedy’s side are 25/1 to upset the Leinster champions while the spread is forecasted at an incredible 16 points.
Rory O’Carroll earlier this week said he expects Longford will adopt a defensive strategy similar to that deployed by Derry against Dublin in the league in March, when Jim Gavin’s men ran out 0-8 to 0-4 winners.
Ryan can’t say exactly what tactics his former charges will adopt, only that they won’t be arriving in Croke Park to keep the losing margin down.
“I’m sure the Longford lads don’t think that,” he says of damage limitation, “and the reality is they can’t think that. Any team going up to play Dublin, the question is are you better off picking up a moral victory in the previous game by losing, rather than facing up to them? But you’re only going to improve by playing the better teams. Counties from lower divisions cry out to be at a higher level to compete with the bigger teams.
“I’m sure the Longford lads are looking forward to this game. I, unfortunately, never had an opportunity to come up against Dublin during my time with Longford and I know the lads during that time would have loved to have a crack at them. We had an opportunity in a replay against Wexford (2012 Leinster quarter-final ) and we were pipped in the last few minutes.
“Knowing the Longford psyche and the players still there, this is one they’ll be up for. A few of them have been around for a good number of years and I think they’ve had their fill of moral victories.
“Longford will set up the best way they think possible to win the game, whether that’s going with plenty of men in defence or using their forward power. I don’t think they will do it for the sake of it; they’ll be doing it for themselves.”
From his five years working with the county side, Ryan got to appreciate just how much Longford yearn to showcase their talents. The 2011 and 2013 Leinster U21 final appearances, both lost narrowly, would suggest there will be more days in Croke Park, although the Kildare native would read more into players’ attitudes than those close-run things at U21 level. “There’s no doubt about that but that’s no guarantee of success but more a barometer of the work being done leading up to those levels. Longford people love football and in most cases they get the best from their best players. You look at Paul Barden and Bernard McElvaney and these players who were able to compete at the highest level. The same now goes for the likes of Dermot Brady and Michael Quinn. They can live with the best.”
It’s been said that for the likes of Tipperary, their championship won’t start in earnest until the qualifiers. Beat Waterford tomorrow and it’s widely expected they will cause Kerry problems in a Munster semi-final but ultimately not enough to beat them. Might the same line of thinking be applicable to Longford now as they face their own goliath?
Ryan disagrees: “People have this assumption that you can go into the qualifiers and you will have a handy route. You can get tripped up as early in the qualifiers as you can in the provincial championships. You could end up facing Tyrone or another team that has been knocked out early on. It would be very foolish and show a lack of ambition to be plotting that way and it would send out the wrong signals.
“I don’t think that’s the case but there’s no doubt that when you are knocked out of the province, it’s great to have the backdoor to have the opportunity to get back on track.”
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