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Friday 9 December 2016

Parking the bus may not work against Dublin, warns Longford boss Jack Sheedy

Frank Roche talks to the Longford boss about his big tactical crux - halting Dublin

Longford manager Jack Sheedy celebrates with kit man Shane Donoghue after the final whistle. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship, Round 1, Offaly v Longford, O'Connor Park, Tullamore
Longford manager Jack Sheedy celebrates with kit man Shane Donoghue after the final whistle. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship, Round 1, Offaly v Longford, O'Connor Park, Tullamore

JACK SHEEDY may be sky blue to the core but divided loyalties aren't the Longford manager's biggest problem as he prepares to tackle the beast of Leinster football in Croke Park this Sunday.

A far greater challenge is the tactical conundrum: how exactly do you set up a team that spent the spring months playing in Division Four to take on the three-in-a-row league champions and All-Ireland favourites?

In a nutshell, how can Longford possibly stop the Dubs?

"There are different aspects to it," Sheedy reflected at a media briefing in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park. "Do you go in and park the bus and set up a blockade and try and not get beaten? Or do you try and be true to yourselves and go out and go toe to toe with Dublin?

"Teams at a higher level than us have tried to do both of those things and have failed.

DIFFERENT

"We are looking at a few different things we want to do and, if we can manage to do them well, then it will give us an opportunity to give a decent account of ourselves.

"And that's what we can do ... I'm not going to go out and start shouting that we are going to beat Dublin or do this, that or the other. We're realistic about our chances but we have to try and be as true to ourselves as we possibly can.

"If we can give a really good account of ourselves by playing a good standard and a good brand of football, then we will see where that brings us. I'm not saying it's going to get us a win but it will give us a decent chance for a while anyway."

During his own '90s playing pomp, Sheedy was a hero of the Hill but doesn't find any discomfort in now trying to plot his own county's downfall.

"I am here coaching in Longford now, I love every minute of it, but I'm still a very proud Dub and always will be," he stressed.

"Going to Croke Park is a massive challenge but one I am really looking forward to. Once we go and perform and give a good account of ourselves, which I expect we will do, then I'll be proud of our lads."

He rubbished any glass-half-empty suggestion that Longford would have been better off losing to Offaly, thus avoiding a Leinster date with the Dubs.

"Playing the best teams gives you a perspective of where you are at," he explained. "We are a Division Three team for the forthcoming league, we understand where we are at ... but unless we get the opportunities to play the big teams you are never going to get the aspiration to play any higher."

Sheedy added that his players were "absolutely delighted" at the prospect of facing Dublin in their HQ stomping ground.

"Yes, in certain ways it would have been lovely if Dublin were coming to Pearse Park, but it was never something that was going to happen. It was never on the agenda," he pointed out.

"It was just a comment I was asked to make about how I felt - and as an ex-player playing away from Croke Park - those were great days. But our lads are really looking forward to going to Croke Park because it's where you want to test yourself. You want to play the big teams and this is our opportunity."

OFFICER

He was "not in the slightest" surprised to see his former teammate, Jim Gavin, become Dublin manager in late 2012.

"I've known Jim, we went to the same school, and Jim being an officer in the Air Corps, he was always officer material. Once he got into the coaching/management side of things, he had that steely determination to kick on and be the best he could be at that level."

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