Longford host the students of Athlone IT in the first round of the O’Byrne Cup this weekend. The home side have been improving in recent seasons and will be anxious to have an extended run in this years competition. It will be viewed as somewhat disappointing if they cannot collect full points in their opening fixture of the new campaign.
Under the stewardship of former Kildare star Glen Ryan, the Midlander’s have shown up well in the Leinster championship and All Ireland qualifier series. However, as with any side, success can only be measured in terms of trophies won, and the 2012 O’Byrne Cup must be a serious target for this present Longford side.
Ryan has introduced a number of newcomers to his squad this season and while blooding these footballers will be important, there is little doubt but that the county are taking this competition very seriously. The return of former Australian Rules player Michael Quinn to the Longford colours is a huge boost for 2012 and the player can use his class and experience to help his young side.
Athlone IT has failed to set the college’s scene on fire in recent seasons and could not be considered one of the stronger sides in this competition. They departed the 2011 Sigerson Cup at the hands of Carlow IT in the first round last year and also failed to make a huge impact on the O’Byrne Cup. While the students may have a fitness advantage over their inter-county rivals at this stage of the season, it is unlikely to prove enough to see them cause an upset.
Longford are a confident selection to take the honours here and get their 2012 campaign off to a winning start. It is a very important season for Glen Ryan and his charges and anything other than a comprehensive win will be frowned upon. Those punting on Betfair should consider a handicap bet with the county side giving away anything up to 5-6 points.