Player Interview

U19 Player Interview: Uli Keller

Thu Oct 18th 2018

Contrary to popular belief, the 2018 season is far from over for Longford Town FC.

The Under 19’s, led by the talented Darren McGarry produced a heroic fightback win over Derry City at the City Calling Stadium last week to set up a huge Shield Semi-Final home clash against Shelbourne on the Strokestown Road this coming Sunday. (Kick-off is at 2.00pm)

Ahead of the mouth-watering clash at the City Calling Stadium, under-19 goalkeeper and first team squad member Uli Keller caught up with reporter Andrew Dempsey to reflect on his year gone by and look forward to the upcoming clash against Shels on Sunday afternoon.

There was no shortage of drama last week as Longford Town’s Under 19’s secured a heroic win over Derry City at the aforementioned City Calling Stadium. After going two-nil down, Darren McGarry’s talented group of young guns produced a stirring fightback win over a crestfallen Candystripes.

Speaking on the win last weekend, Keller noted that it was a team effort that secured the unlikely win as the never-say-die attitude amongst the group became strikingly evident as the game progressed despite the rollercoaster nature of the game.

“It was brilliant. To come back from two nil down when the heads looked down was great. All of us, from myself up to the striker, including the midfield and the defence, to pull together, miss a penalty, and then to go on ahead and score straight after that and then equalise to bring it into extra-time and turn it around to win the game. It was brilliant to be a part of and a great achievement!”

The National League’s structure introduced by the FAI has produced a player pathway like never before in the League of Ireland. Benefiting from this new scheme which has seen the likes of Aodh Dervin and Tristan Noack Hofmann make their first-team bows, the Drogheda man Keller revealed that it would be a dream for him to make his mark on the League of Ireland senior set-up in the coming years.

“It’s everyone’s dream I suppose! Anyone from schoolboys’ level all the way up to the level I’m at now all dream about that. To step out onto the pitch and represent a team like Longford or any other team in the League of Ireland would be a fantastic achievement!”

Every player has an idol, none more so than goalkeepers who have a thankless job at times. Having grown up in Drogheda, the 18-year-old noted that the man who he’s looked up to for the majority of his underage development is current Dundalk shot-stopper Gabriel Sava who has won many league titles with the Lilywhites.

“I would’ve looked up a lot to Gabriel Sava when he was at Drogheda United, which happens to be my local club. I looked up to him a lot and I got lucky last year when I actually got to train alongside him at Dundalk! I never thought that something like that would’ve ever happened!”

Still only a teenager and now facing into his last year of secondary school education, it is rare for any player of Uli’s age to have such experience in a first-team environment.

Sharing a dressing room with the likes of Darren Meenan and Chris Mulhall, who left De Town during the summer, Uli noted that the things he picked up from the experienced heads of the Longford Town FC dressing room has brought him on leaps and bounds as he still learns the tricks of his very trade.

“From that point of view, sharing the dressing room with the likes of Chris Mulhall and Darren Meenan, the experience I’ve got from being around them was brilliant. I’ve learned an awful lot from the two and it has brought me on as a player and as a personality even outside the dressing room. If it wasn’t for my experience in and around the first-team I wouldn’t be at the level, I’m at today!”

Naturally after a win there is a great fantastic buzz around any team, no matter the circumstances. With the Red and Black of the Midlands reaching a national cup semi-final, the mood was even more so improved as mentioned by Keller who is already raring to go for the Sunday afternoon clash at the City Calling Stadium.

“The boys are over the moon! Chuffed they are! We were raring to go again even straight after the match last week. The lads all wanted to train the very next day, but the manager had to tell us to relax and calm down after the game! Darren told us all to re-group and we were in training on Wednesday evening and we’ll train again on Friday as we look to get a big win on Sunday afternoon against Shelbourne to get to a cup final!”

Given the close correlation in age groups between under 19 and senior League of Ireland football, it is only natural to see a young coach like Darren McGarry work closely alongside Neale Fenn, the first-team coach in terms of the development of players.

Commenting on this, the talented Drogheda native remarked on the relationship between the duo as both Neale and Darren sink their teeth into the realm of underage coaching and player development early on in their coaching careers.

“The two of them work side by side. Obviously, Neale is the first-team manager and has more experience while also having experience at the top level as has Darren (McGarry). Darren was once a goalkeeper which helps my bond with him. He’s always happy to see us progress to the first-team and he’s more than happy to let us travel with the first-team if it means missing a game with the 19’s. He really does enjoy having the likes of us with the first-team and coming back to play with the 19’s!”

Giving his thoughts on the upcoming game, Uli noted that he is expecting a tough clash against the Dublin side as De Town look to write the wrongs of the prior two defeats against the Reds so far this year at least.

“It’s going to be a tough game. We’ve come up against them twice already this year and unfortunately, we’ve lost to them twice. However, so did Derry City and we were able to turn that one around. There’s a couple on Shels’ side who I know also play with the first team there and they are very skilled footballers, but we’ve got a great bond among the group at the moment. After the win last week, we can get through thick and thin!”

And finally, Uli had this message for any supporters thinking about heading to the game on Sunday afternoon.

We also have an audio interview with Uli on our SoundCloud page. Click on to listen. 


Sun Aug 26th 2018

Interview by Andrew Dempsey

(Originally published in this weekend’s Talk Of The Town match programme)

Having joined the club from Shelbourne in the summer transfer window to ease Neale Fenn’s attacking woes, new Town signing Jamie Doyle burst onto the Longford Town scene with bang following a superb brace at Éamonn Deacy Park last week.

With that goal-scoring monkey now officially off his back, Jamie spoke with the Longford Town FC official matchday programme ahead of the tantalising home clash against Shelbourne in the 2nd Round of the FAI Cup on Saturday evening at the City Calling Stadium.

With news of his signature coming just days after De Town’s superb win over UCD at the Belfield Bowl, the 24-year-old target man revealed that he has enjoyed every minute of his spell at the club to date since his move from our upcoming opponents Shelbourne at the beginning of the summer transfer window.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at the club so far! The lads have all made me feel very welcome since I came in on July 1st. I knew quite a few of the lads coming into the club anyway before I came to the City Calling Stadium and knowing the assistant manager Daire Doyle was a bonus as well, so I’ve settled into the group very well!”

While knowing a fair few of his new teammates prior to his arrival at the City Calling Stadium, Jamie wasn’t all too familiar with many of his new teammates as he walked into the dressing room for the very first time.

[caption id="attachment_18960" align="aligncenter" width="348"] Jamie Doyle has settled in well for De Town so far. (Picture: Longford Leader/Syl Healy)[/caption]

However, getting to build relationships with his new partners in crime wasn’t that much of an issue as we have seen in recent games given the superb on-pitch connection between Doyle and the creative forces empowering the Town first-team, which Jamie remarked on.

“Yeah the lads have been great to me so far! I’ve never played with Darren Meenan or Dylan McGlade before and I seem to have struck up a good partnership with the lads already during the last couple of games alongside Sam Verdon, so it’s been enjoyable for myself since I came in. I’m a close friend of Daniel O’Reilly from before so I suppose that helps a bit!”

Given the contrast in footballing styles between Neale Fenn’s Longford Town and Owen Heary’s Shelbourne, it would be easy to suggest that the former UCD hitman would struggle to adapt to his new style of play at the City Calling Stadium.
Despite this, the ex-Leixlip United striker noted that he has found the transition into Neale’s side as rather seamless given his experience under a possession-based system at UCD back in 2015.

“What Neale is implementing here at the minute suits me right down to the ground. I know at Shels I was playing under a much different playing style, but I was at UCD a few years back, so I’m well used to passing the ball around the deck. We played a similar way there a few years ago so I found it easy enough getting back into the swing of things once again!”

As mentioned previously, our new number nine announced his grand arrival when it mattered last Friday night when it mattered most against Galway United.

Along with the magnificent Dylan McGlade, the Dubliner scored a fantastic double to send De Town on their way to morale boosting win against the Tribesmen to get his Longford Town account up and running, much to his relief after a few good chances evaded him in recent games.

“I was thrilled to get my first couple of goals for the club against Galway on Friday evening. I nearly had a few against Shels not so long ago so I was itching to get a few goals under my belt. It was great to get that monkey off my back against Galway so hopefully I can keep them going in the back of the net between now and the end of the season!”

The FAI Cup will always have a special place in the heart of many a Longford Town fan. The cup wins of 2003 and 04’ are still etched in the memory of even the least interested Town supporter given the buzz and excitement it created for the county.
Comparing a cup tie to a league one is nigh on impossible, as mentioned by Doyle who relishes the freedom that a cup game brings up compared to the high-pressure nature of a normal league game where everyone is scrapping it out for points.

“In a cup game you feel as if there’s no real pressure on yourself. It’s a kind of free hit to try and get the club into the next round. In comparison to the league games, there’s no serious pressure in terms of getting back into the race for the Playoff spots so everyone plays with that bit more freedom compared to the league games really!”

Given the circumstances of our last few games against Shelbourne, it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that there is a genuine passion within the Longford Town dressing room to finally get one over on Owen Heary’s Reds.
That sentiment was confirmed by Jamie, who feels that his new side have more than enough in the arsenal to get one over on their playoff-chasing foes.

“We’re all hungry to get this game underway on the weekend especially after what happened at Tolka Park last time we played them. The game obviously didn’t go our way with some decisions going against us. It wasn’t down to the way we played or anything, we played very well that night against Shels so hopefully we can get a few early goals and get through to the quarter finals of the cup!”

And finally, the recently recruited Dublin native had this to say to about the wonderful support that the team have received since his arrival into squad back in early July.

“The supporters have been brilliant so far! The lads over at Section O have been incredible every week. They were so noisy at Tolka that time and over in Sligo away at the Showgrounds they were very noisy as well. In Galway last week they were terrific and as a group we really appreciate them. It gives us a massive lift for the games knowing that we have so many people behind making as much noise as possible!”


Fri Aug 10th 2018


Longford Town have an exciting Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup First Round tie against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds on Saturday evening at 7.45pm.

Last season saw an inspired Town dispose of their upcoming opponents Sligo by four goals to two at the City Calling Stadium as Neale Fenn’s young guns stunned Ger Lyttle’s Bit O’ Red with goals from Karl Chambers, Sam Verdon, Peter Hopkins and Kealan Dillon.

[caption id="attachment_18746" align="aligncenter" width="1368"] Longford Town defeated The Bit O’Red 4-2 after extra-time in last year’s FAI Cup.[/caption]

Ahead of the impending clash which has pitted the two N4 rivals together once again, local star and current first-team left back Tristan Noack-Hofmann spoke exclusively to reporter Andrew Dempsey ahead of a salivating do-or-die cup clash against Sligo Rovers on Saturday evening.

Discussed in this interview was our season to date alongside the exciting times that only cup games bring to the table against the best teams the country has to offer.

Consolidating his place in the first-team this year with twenty league games under his belt thus far, Tristan has made the left back spot his own in recent seasons at the City Calling Stadium with many solid defensive displays of grit and determination.
Saying that, he has experienced many ups and downs already in his short career as a League of Ireland footballer, none more so than the recent defeat at Tolka Park.

Now 20, the impressive full-back noted that it was vitally important for the team to bounce back in the way they did against Athlone last week as Neale Fenn’s side look to find that all important momentum between now and the end of the season at the City Calling Stadium.

“It was a difficult weekend for us after the Shels game. At half time or even after an hour you would never have seen anything like that coming but it is what it is, and it was important that we bounced back against Athlone last week. We needed another win under our belts and we’ve a big cup game this weekend against Sligo. Confidence is so important because we have a young squad and thankfully we got a good win against Athlone!”

Lying on 38 points in the First Division league table in 5th place, just four points behind Drogheda United and Shelbourne in 3rd and 4th spot respectively, Town look primed for an end of season assault on the play-offs.

While the title is now mathematically out of reach at the Strokestown Road venue, Noack-Hofmann believes that it is of paramount importance for the team to keep getting points on the board between now and the end of the season as the Red and Black of the Midlands hunt down an elusive Playoff spot.

“In general, we’ve been quite consistent this year. Our levels of football and the way we play has stayed the same throughout. As a squad we’ve gelled together incredibly well. Fair enough the results might not always be the best or the points tally may not have been fair on us so far. Performances have been quite good this year apart from one or two results especially Finn Harps away. We just need to keep getting points on the board between now and the end of the season and who knows what will happen then!”

Comparing last year’s First Division to the latest instalment of it which has seen plenty of twists and turns thus far, the Longford/Cavan border native remarked that it is a far more enjoyable competition to play in this term, citing the unpredictability of results as the major reason as to why.

“It’s so much more enjoyable compared to last year! Every game means so much and you can go to every ground thinking you can get a win on the board. There’s no such weekend when you look at teams saying they’ll beat them or vice versa. As we’ve seen already it’s just so unpredictable. Cabinteely can go and beat UCD or Athlone could go off and take points off anyone. It’s just that kid of a year! You have to take each game as it comes and play to the best of your ability.”

With an improved buzz around Longford Town this year in terms of attendances and results, Tristan noted that he feels no different this year in terms of supporter expectations compared to his previous seasons in the Red and Black as both himself and close friend Aodh Dervin have played starring roles in Neale Fenn’s side.

“To be honest I don’t feel any different this year compared to other years playing for the club. Aodh and I are certainly enjoying our football. We’re both being allowed to express ourselves and that’s a great way to be. The club have been great to us so far and the fans have been so supportive of us when we get out there. They’ve taken us under their wings and have helped us along the way. Expectation is always good in a way but too much expectation is not good. I think we’ve had the perfect balance which has let us excel and allowed us to enjoy our football!”

With this week signalling the introduction of League of Ireland teams into the FAI Cup, the Longford Town FC academy graduate noted that he would love to be involved in another FAI Cup run akin to last year’s adventure in the storied cup competition.

“Cup runs are always great! As good as the First Division is this year, you always relish the feeling of going to big grounds in front big crowds against the best teams there are. You get a real buzz getting out onto the pitch when you’re in the middle of a cup run. You play against the best players and we’ll notice that against Sligo. They have an unbelievable squad and it’s a great experience when you get to play against players of that calibre. A cup run is so important for us lads to experience vibes of a higher league and the differences of playing at that elite level.”

With Manager and Assistant Manager Neale Fenn and Daire Doyle having plenty of fantastic experience in the FAI Cup during their playing careers, the 20-year-old defender noted that the experienced duo have passed on plenty of advice to the players ahead of the exciting cup clash against Sligo come 7.45pm on Saturday night.

“Neale and Daire have been very helpful in getting us ready for the game against Sligo on Saturday night. We know that we’re playing a very good Sligo team and we’ll stick to our own philosophy which has got us to where we are already. We’ve been good with that side of our game throughout this season with Neale and Daire, although we play different teams with different challenges, we’ve generally stuck to our philosophy which has helped us. I think it’s important that we stay to that because that’s how we play best!”

Remarkably, Town have quite an impressive record against Premier Division sides in the Cup competitions under the stewardship of Neale Fenn.  Only Cork City have got the better of De Town since Fenn’s arrival in late June 2017 as the 40-year-old Londoner has masterminded wins against the likes of Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers previously in both the FAI and EA Sports Cups during the last twelve months.

An evident aspect of our new style of play, introduced by Neale Fenn, has been the ability for his side to test seasoned Premier Division clubs.

This sentiment was echoed by Tristan when he spoke about the Sligo game at the Showgrounds who believes the team plays better when they are given a crack at bigger teams on quality surfaces.

“The thing with us is we play better when we play good opposition on good pitches. When we play the likes of Cabinteely away on a rugby pitch or Athlone away we struggle to get our game going.  On pitches like the Showgrounds in Sligo we really enjoy it. We always put in our better performances when we go out and strut our stuff on better pitches because that’s the kind of team we are. Hopefully the Showgrounds will be in good nick like it always is and we’ll see what happens!”

And finally, Noack-Hofmann had this message for the supporters thanking them for the support they have given the team so far this season.

[caption id="attachment_18749" align="alignnone" width="2048"] Tristan was named last year’s LTFC Young Player of the Year.[/caption]

“The support for us has been immense so far this season. You really notice it when we play at the City Calling Stadium and other grounds throughout the country. When we come out from the dressing room, you get that extra 10% which is such a massive boost to ourselves. When we were at Tolka it was like we had a home game! It really gives you that extra push when you need it most and it’s really important to us!”


Fri May 4th 2018

Interview by Andrew Dempsey

Since joining the club in July 2017, Sam Verdon has established himself as one of Neale Fenn’s most trusted creative sparks in the midfield area, during his brief, yet fruitful stint at Longford Town having joined the club from former club St Patrick’s Athletic in last year’s summer transfer window.

So, ahead of this weekend’s bumper weekend of action down in Cobh, Sam spoke with reporter Andrew Dempsey, as the pair looked back on a heart-breaking few weeks for De Town while also looking ahead to an exciting weekend of action at St Colman’s Park.

After joining the club shortly after the arrival of Neale Fenn at the helm, Sam noted that he has thoroughly enjoyed his spell in the Red and Black of Longford Town so far.

“It’s been great! When I first came the league was more or less over as Waterford had the league wrapped up, but we had a good cup run to the quarter-finals against Cork City. It was great for myself personally to get some senior games under my belt and obviously since the start of this year we started off well, but we’ve had a few bad results in recent weeks, but it’s been good so far and I’ve really enjoyed it!”

Having worked under Liam Buckley at St Pat’s for so long prior to his move to the Midlands, the now 22-year-old Dubliner revealed that he has found playing under Neale Fenn quite similar to his time with Liam Buckley at Inchicore, with the style of play being a major plus side of the pairs relationship with Sam.

“Well it’s quite similar! They both try and keep the ball and they both try and play the same style of football anyway so in that terms its hardly been a massive change for me now. Obviously, every manager is different when they try to do things and they all do things differently but its been good for me. I like to play the way that both Neale and Liam want to play so it hasn’t been a massive change, but it’s been good!”

With so many experienced heads joining De Town in the off-season, Sam revealed that he has found working with the likes of Shane O’Connor, Chris Mulhall and Darren Meenan to be a great learning experience as he looks to forge a promising career for himself at the City Calling Stadium.

“They’ve all been great in fairness to them. Darren’s obviously achieved great things up at Dundalk and he’s had a great career while Shane and Chris have likewise. It’s great to have a mix between youth and experience which we do have. We’ve got a good mix in the team between young and old lads and it’s a good blend as we look to get a bit of success!”

Verdon also admitted that he has found the help of more senior players to be a welcome learning curve for himself in previous years and he is now looking to pass on his footballing knowledge gained from to the likes of Greg Bolger and Keith Fahey to younger players in the Longford Town first-team, like local midfield star Aodh Dervin.


“I see myself passing on bits and pieces to the likes of Aodh whose come in and done a great job for us so far! It’s very unfortunate that he’s after getting injured but it’s the little things that we all pass on to each other. It’s always a thing that when you’re young you look to the older lads for a bit of advice here and there! I remember when I was younger I was getting advice from the likes of James Chambers, Greg Bolger, Keith Fahey and all them players. Even just a little word in the ear can be a huge help and its generally always minute details!”

However, with the amount of late goals going against the “Red and Black” at the moment, Verdon is hoping that this rotten run of bad luck will cease in the not so distant future at the City Calling Stadium.

“It’s heart-breaking. It really is but look, that’s football. We hope that later on in the season our luck will change somewhere along the way and we’ll be the ones getting late goals but when you look back on Saturday I think that was our best performance of the season and it’s a game you’re wondering how did we not get a win, and then if we take a point at least we didn’t lose it but to lose it that way was heart-breaking.

“Saying that, it wasn’t just the other night, it happened us against Drogheda, Cobh and Shels as well. It could be just a little of maturity in a way that is needed, and we need to iron out one or two little things. It’s not to do with the players we have or anything like that but it’s the know-how. The other teams like Shelbourne and Finn Harps both have that and that’s something we’ll have to learn.”

However, looking ahead to the two trips down to Cobh in the space of four days, Sam knows the importance of staying in touch with the league leaders as Neale Fenn readies the troops for a big weekend of games down in St Colman’s Park.

“It’s going to be tough! You’ll never get an easy game going down to Cobh, small pitch, small ground, tough team so yes, it is going be a tough game. We haven’t really spoken about Tuesday yet and we’re just looking at Saturday and that’s the most important one for us! It’s a league game and we need the three points. We need to start catching back up with the teams at the top of the table because we can’t afford to drop any more points or else we’ll fall away.”

With De Town set to travel a mammoth 992km in just four days, the attacking midfield star knows that there will be an added importance in getting in as much rest as possible over the weekend as the Red and Black of the Midlands look to get back into the promotion hunt while also looking to reach the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup where a big day lies in waiting for Neale Fenn and his youthful, hungry side.

“Yeah it will be tough with the travel and all the injuries we’ve got now. We need to be careful when we go down there. We’ll head down Saturday, and we’ll obviously get back late on Saturday night and we’ll be back at home on Sunday before we’ve a light session on the Monday to prepare for Tuesday. So, it’s a lot of travelling especially for a part-time team which is difficult because full-time teams have the benefits of relaxing and doing nothing outside of football while part-time lads have work and things like that. It’s all about getting that rest in between now and then. We want to go down and get the three points then we have a great chance to get to a cup semi-final against the top teams in the country so both games are massive!”

And finally, Sam had this message to pass onto the supporters who will be making the long trip down to Cobh come Saturday night as De Town will be looking to shoot their way up the table this coming weekend.

“We’re going to go down there and try our best and look to get a good win! I don’t know if they know it or not, but their support really does help spur us on. Obviously, the noise they make gives us an extra gear and hopefully they can be as loud as they can. In fairness, they’ve been great for us so far and hopefully they can continue what they’re doing, and we’ll hopefully be sending them home happy with the three points!”

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2018 First Division