There is nothing easy in junior rugby writes Longford Rugby Director Niall Moran, games are won in the trenches, by inches, and this season will be no different.
The rugby geography in Longford has changed over the last 10 years. Since Colm Glynn coached the club to an unexpected Division two title over 10 seasons ago, each year, there has been an incremental improvement.
A Towns Cup Final appearance, three Plate Final appearances, another Division Two title, a Division 1A Promotion/Relegation Play-off defeat by the smallest of margins, all supplemented with a number of Midland League titles.
All supporting a performance graph generally pointing upwards. So, to Tullow, on Sunday August 22nd for our first league game of the season.
This is a side that probably has most in common with Longford. Like us, they possess a loyal core of club stalwarts having annexed a Towns Cup pendant and hung it on the wall of their Black Gates home.
A massive achievement for a rural club in the middle of a GAA heartland. They bring their traditional aggression and ruggedness to the party.
For us, the fear is being undercooked. Have we enough running in the legs? This is a sliding doors moment.
Win and look upwards. Lose and the world looks a lot different. Having taken 10 league points out of the two fixtures last season, we certainly wouldn’t fear them, but we will not take them for granted either.
Whatever happens in Tullow, the following four games are against sides that have fallen out of the All-Ireland League.
De La Salle Palmerston, County Carlow, Monkstown and Boyne. Two big Dublin clubs, with big dreams and deep pockets, and two large urban towns with strong rugby tradition.
Over the course of last season we beat all four, but lost in Carlow, when we took our eye off the ball. Hopefully that was a learning, and we can drive forward.
The last two games in round one of the league are against the two promoted sides from last season.
Both Cill Dara and Clondalkin have been regular visitors to CPL Park over the last decade and will both fancy their chances of taking the spoils. Neither will be taken for granted, a neutral observer can expect sparks.
Just before Christmas the fixtures repeat themselves and we welcome Tullow in round two, playing each other side in the alternate home or away venue after that.
The squad for this season has lost Derek Farrell, who has travelled with work. Paul Gallogly has work commitments that are going to delay his return to the fold (hopefully), but other than that, the squad is strong.
A year older and wiser, the input of Ryan McHugh, Liam Harte, Robbie Shaw and Packie Molloy will help strengthen the group, but the loss of Daire O’Brien to NUIM Barnhall on a rugby scholarship is a loss to the club, but great for the young player.
The return to the club of Aaron and Andrew Beirne, Kevin Rodgers and Cormac Hughes is a big lift to the management team.
Westley Nyman and Graeme Bester, two strapping South Africans will be fighting for their place on the team, adding ballast and power to the backline.
The squad continues to contain our recently capped Leinster Junior players; Kieran O’Gorman, Benny McManus, Barry Stewart, Dylan Quinn, Hughbie Connolly, Colm Glynn and Shane Rodgers.
Recently returned travellers; Daniel McHugh and Ian McCormack further strengthen backline options, with Conor Craig progression from last seasons Under 18s a big lift to the group.
Glenn Basket continues in his role of head coach, flourishing and delivering in a positive and healthy environment.
With a backroom support team of Kolo Kiripati, Stephen Coy, Alan Campbell, Kieran Sloyan, Karen Lennon and Seamus Cox, all the pieces are in place for a crack at reaching the top division for the first time in the club’s history.
But first, our friends in Tullow!