GAA supporters from across Athlone and the extended areas of south Westmeath and south Roscommon will meet in Longford tomorrow as neighbouring clubs Garrycastle and St Brigid’s finally meet at the much anticipated All-Ireland club senior football championship semi-final.
The game throws in at 2pm on Saturday February 18, at Pearse Park, Longford on Battery Road. Neutrals across the country have shown great interest and TG4 is expecting its viewership figures to be higher than usual for the game.
Gardaí in Longford are expecting a near full house tomorrow and will be implementing a traffic plan to avoid major hold-ups going and coming from the game.
Traffic coming from Athlone Town (N55 ) will be diverted at Ballymahon onto the N55 to Edgeworthstown and continue to Pearse Park via the N4. Parking will be on the N4 Longford bypass. Traffic coming from Roscommon Town (N63 ) will be diverted at Ballyleague onto the R371 to Scramogue and continue to Longford via the N5. Traffic coming in from the N5 will be directed left at Augheragh onto the Lisbrack Road and will park in the rugby club or Pearse Park (Lisbrack Road ) car park. It is important to note that the N63 is closed due to major road works at Killashee.
When the rugby club and Lisbrack Road car parks are full, traffic on the N5 will be diverted at Kilmore Cross (100m on the left past D&E McHugh’s ) to Newtownforbes and continue to Pearse Park via the N4. Parking will be on the N4 Longford bypass.
Kilmore Cross will then be manned by An Garda Síochána. Traffic not diverting in Ballymahon and coming through Kenagh (R 397 ) should join the N63 at Ballymacormack turning right for Longford, and divert left at the roundabout through Flancare Industrial Estate onto the N5. This traffic can then go via Lisbrack Road to Pearse Park/rugby grounds car park or proceed to the Longford Arms Hotel junction and turn left onto Lower Main Street/Battery Road to Pearse Park (parking on N4 bypass ).
The road to Longford will be a sea of red and green as the fans of each club proudly display their support. For St Brigid’s it is not a new experience as the Kiltoom/Cam club have become regulars in the Connacht championship arena, coming out on top on three occasions in recent years and making it to the All-Ireland final in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day last.
To their credit the Roscommon side have moved past their status as runners-up to Crossmaglen last year. They see it as a driving force to go one better in 2012. Still, no one at the club is looking past Saturday’s outing in Longford.
For the boys on the east bank it may be all new territory but they will be drawing on past experiences from within their own county to add to the determination to go all the way after being crowned kings of Leinster last December.
The banter so far has been friendly in a competition that reminds the supporters you don’t choose your club, you inherit it; but come 2pm on Saturday it won’t be a matter of life or death, and to quote Bill Shankley, “It’s more important than that”.