Armagh are the best team in Division Three: Longford boss Denis Connerton
LONGFORD boss Denis Connerton insists Sunday’s opponents Armagh are the best team in this year’s NFL Division Three and hopes that the Orchard men don’t leave them behind like they did in last year’s corresponding fixture.
Armagh streaked ahead against Longford last season and survived a late comeback to leave with just two points to spare.
Both Longford and Armagh have won their opening two games in Division Three this season and will have eyes on the two promotion berths.
The Leinster men have beaten Derry and Offaly so far, but Armagh are likely to be a major step up in class.
Kieran McGeeney’s side have swept to victories over Sligo and Westmeath and will look to put themselves in pole position after this weekend’s intriguing encounter.
“To me, Armagh are the best team in Division Three,” stated Connerton.
“Kieran McGeeney has worked very hard with this Armagh team. In fact, any team that he’s been involved in are very difficult to beat. This Armagh team is very well organised and their strength and conditioning is hugely impressive.
“We know it’s a very difficult venue for us to go to on Sunday but these are the games players want to be involved in, playing against quality opposition and in front of big crowds.
“Armagh are flying presently and we know from playing them last year - when they went 11 points in front - that we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Since taking over Longford in 2016, Connerton has a new-found respect for the toughness of Division Three.
Last season, a last-gasp equaliser away to Antrim kept them in the division and sent Antrim into Division Four.
“Division Three seems to be producing a lot of good teams,” he said.
“Armagh got to the All-Ireland quarter-finals last year and Tipperary reached the All-Ireland semi-finals the year before. When I was away from the football I felt Division Three wasn’t hugely competitive, but when you’re stuck in the middle of it, it is so competitive.
“For us to go to the last game last year against Antrim – we were fortunate enough to come away with a point – it showed how tight it was to stay in the division.”
Despite their unbeaten start to their League campaign, Connerton was reluctant to make any grand mission statements for the year ahead especially with such a tough assignment in front of them this weekend.
“The only thing I ever say about Longford - and I know it’s not giving you an answer - is to see our lads perform to the maximum of their ability every day they go out and I feel that we’re not doing that.
“We need a consistency of performance. Last year against Laois [in the Leinster Championship] we conceded four goals in five minutes and lost by 11 points. That messed up a lot of good work that we’d done.
“I feel there’s more maturity about them now but we’re only two matches in. There’s a long season ahead of them.”
The roving Michael Quinn remains Longford’s talisman and he will be an obvious one to watch for Armagh this weekend.
“He’s a fabulous footballer,” Connerton said.
“Michael Quinn is very committed to Longford. He was working in Dublin teaching in Castleknock and going to DCU, but he was always travelling down and was always one of the first guys at training. He’s a real role model for kids. He keeps himself in marvellous condition. Maybe he’s not seen as often on the TV screens as other players, but it doesn’t take away how fabulous a footballer he is.”