Report by: Rachael McKeon
After knocking Finn Harps out of the Airtricity U19 National Cup earlier in the season Longford Town travelled to Finn Park on Sunday not only in search of their second win in the league but also to stop the home side wrapping up the league title. Longford set about thwarting Harps ambitions in the right way by applying pressure on the home side from the kick off.
Just 7 minutes into the game Padraig Gallagher was unlucky not to put the Town in front when his shot from the edge of the Harps box went over the bar. On 15 minutes Longford were left with only ten men on the pitch for about ten minutes when winger Darren Carberry was forced off to receive attention after he was subjected to a lunging two footed tackle from one of the Harps defenders. There was understandable upset from the Town bench as the referee failed to issue even a yellow card for a tackle that looked to be a certain red. Even with their numerical disadvantage the away side were still playing with purpose and were showing more signs of breaking the dead lock than the team that were looking to secure the league title. It took until the 35th minute for the home side to mount any attack of note and this led to a succession of corners but they were well dealt with by the Town defence and came to nothing. The last attack of the first half came from Longford when Gallagher played a lovely ball to Cosgrave who controlled the ball well and unleashed a shot that went just over the bar. Despite Longford having the better of the spoils both teams went in level at the break.
Finn Harps came out for the second half and immediately started to turn the screw. Within the first 6 minutes Town keeper Devlin was called upon to make two great saves. Following the second save the Harps number 8 was lucky to remain on the field as he received only a yellow card for an over the ball challenge on Gallagher which resulted in yet another Town player being taken off the pitch for treatment. Just as he rejoined the game Harps took advantage of Longford regaining their shape and played a speculative ball into the Town box which was met by the Harps striker who got between two of the Town defenders and sent the ball past Devlin. Not long after the goal Longford were on the attack again when Cheevers played the ball across goal but neither Cosgrave nor Araujo could get the vital touch to even things up. On 68 minutes Carberry who had played most of the game while carrying the injury he sustained from the earlier tackle finally had to give in and was replaced by Tommy Cooney. From here on Harps continued to push on in search of the goal to put the game beyond doubt, but found a Town team even though they were now tiring in fine defensive form. In the 83rd and 89th minute Conor Devlin showed why he is one of the best keepers in the league when he pulled off two world class saves. For the first of these he seemed to be unsighted and going in the wrong direction but somehow managed to shift his body weight and extend his arm to make contact with the ball and divert the danger. Everyone in the ground was sure the second shot was going into the top corner but again Devlin proved his worth pulling off an athletic save to tip it onto the bar and it was cleared from danger by the alert Town defence. As the game moved into injury time Gallagher made a tackle on the edge of the box which the referee deemed to be a foul and unfortunately for the away side the resulting free kick took a wicked deflection and made its way past Devlin. This was harsh on the tiring but still hard working Longford team who travelled to this game with a depleted squad through illness and injury. This was to be the last action of the game and with this result the home side wrapped up the league title. In the midst of their celebrations the Harps fans still found time to give keeper Devlin an ovation off the pitch which was fitting for the player who had made some superb saves throughout the game.
Next up for Longford will be the last game of the league season at home to Cup finalists Dundalk on Saturday week at 2pm.
The Longford Town U19 team and management would like to thank Spar Express on the Dublin Rd. in Longford for their kind sponsorship.
Longford Town: Conor Devlin, Sean Flannery, Efe Siode, Shane O’Connell, Cillian Glacken, Leo Araujo, Dean Cosgrave, Ciaran Fagan, Padraig Gallagher, Paddy Cheevers, Darren Carberry.
Subs: Tommy Cooney for Carberry (68mins).