BY all local admission, Longford are in a footballing trough right now.
Finishing just above London and Kilkenny in Division 4 of the NFL isn't so much an achievement as a complete and abject failure to outrank any semi-serious football county this spring.
On Sunday, they face Louth where their two most dangerous forwards, Paul Barden and Brian Kavanagh, require late fitness tests and, even if they do start the match, both are certain to operate significantly below optimum levels.
Yet selector Liam Keenan is optimistic.
That is understandable for a man who just two years ago, almost lost a leg to a bloodclot but is now contemplating a return to club football.
"It was pretty scary at the time," Keenan notes now. "You don't expect these things to happen to you. It happened out of season as well. It just came on me all of a sudden and it was a major shock for a long time. It was hard to accept."
At just 30 years of age, Keenan had hoped to be part of Glenn Ryan's Longford regeneration project but, such was the severity of the injury, his entire playing career was now in question.
Ryan, eager to keep one of Longford's leaders part of the setup, invited him on board as a selector. Since then, it's been tough, gruelling mostly fruitless work. Results have been scarce.
Longford suffered badly by the absence of eight players to Sigerson football early in the league and a raft of bad injuries to important players towards the back end.
"We were delighted to see the end of the league," Keenan admits. "But that's behind us now. No matter how you go in the league, if we were to win on Sunday it would all be forgotten."
Louth -- frequent spring sparring partners up until this year -- stand in the way on Sunday in Portlaoise. "I don't think there's a whole lot between both teams," Keenan reckons. Look at it this way, the winners get to play Kildare. And it would be nice to get a game under your belt playing Kildare because our league form wasn't great so we would need a game like this.
"They have a very good forward line. Their inside men -- JP Rooney and Shane Lennon -- are good lads. Around the middle, Brian White and Paddy Keenan are fantastic footballers. So, we'd know a bit about them," he concludes.