There is no denying how much Longford captain Donal McElligott loves his football. The Mullinalaghta man, like his team-mates, feels honoured to put on the blue and gold jersey and represent his county.
He said: “We are all representing our clubs, our families and the people of Longford. It’s a very tight knit county. It’s a huge honour for us to do that. As you go on in years you do realise that it’s not going to go on forever. You like to make the most of those opportunities. You do get a massive buzz out of it. I can’t wait for those few minutes before throw-in. That’s where you want to be.”
Longford take on Meath in the Leinster Championship quarter-final in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday. It’s the first provincial championship game they’ve had at home since 2014. Their record in the championship in recent years hasn’t been good. McElligott doesn’t want to add Sunday to Longford’s list of opening day exits: “The last few years we haven’t really turned up properly in the Leinster Championship. We want to make sure that we don’t let this one slip by. It’s a great opportunity to have them at home so we have got to make sure and make the most of it.”
Longford had a good league campaign; just missing out on promotion with the last kick of the game against Fermanagh. McElligott recognised the encouraging signs during the league but Longford need to transfer that into championship football: “There was definitely a lot of encouraging things we got right during the league; in terms of systems of play. Blended in a few young lads and getting lads experience at that level. Championship is different and games will be played at a different pace. It’s about making that transition from spring football to summer football. Hopefully we can do that.”
McElligott knows of the tough challenge that lies ahead for Longford on Sunday. For Longford, it’s all about getting their game and performance right: “ It’s a huge challenge. Meath are such a traditionally strong county. It’s the great history that they have. They’ve been winning All-Irelands since we’ve last been in a Leinster semi-final. They’ve been playing in Division 2 all year which is a step up front what we’ve been doing. We are looking forward to it. At the end of the day we’ll try and focus on our performance. That’s what we are working on.”
For a county that has been starved of success it’s amazing how much Longford people love their football. McElligott is hoping himself and his team-mates can give their ardent supporters something to cheer about come 5pm on Sunday: “It’s huge. At the end of the day you are probably judged on championship. It is a step up. There will be a whole buzz about it. There won’t be too many people from Longford that have an interest in football that won’t be in on Sunday. It’s important and we understand that Longford people love their football and love coming out to support us.”