Longford Town will take a break from the trials and tribulations of First Division football on Saturday night when they host Premier Division side Drogheda United at The City Calling Stadium (kick-off 7-30pm). Town boss Tony Cousins will be hoping his side can use the momentum from last weekend’s 4-0 victory over Salthill Devon to cause a cup upset against a “Drogs” side that have already appeared in a Setanta Sports Cup final this season with a League Cup final also on the horizon next month at the Tallaght Stadium.
Despite plying their trades in separate divisions this will be the second meeting of the season between Longford Town and Drogheda United with Mick Cooke’s men running out easy winners at the start of the campaign in an EA Sports Cup tie at Hunky Dory’s Park. Despite that heavy defeat for the Midlanders, a much tougher challenge can be expected from the hosts this time round with Tony Cousins expected to field a strong side with home advantage on “De Town’s” side.
There is no doubt United go into this game as favourites considering their top flight status and when you throw in the facts that the “Drogs” were Airtricity League runners up last season as well as EA Sports Cup winners you really start to understand the task Longford Town’s players have on their hands here. Mick Cooke is one of the most respected managers in the League of Ireland with fantastic records at both Monaghan United and Drogheda but he has not rested on last season’s success with one cup final already played, another to look forward to plus European football returning to County Louth where United ran Swedish footballing giants Malmo extremely close in the Europa League with the Swedes going on to humiliate Pat Fenlon’s Hibernian side 9-0 on aggregate in the next round.
Dundalk’s great local rivals have been unable to match last season’s unbelievable league exploits ,with Stephen Kenny’s “Lillywhites” stealing all the headlines in Louth this season, but in recent weeks the men in Maroon have began to find some league form again with two hugely impressive victories over mid-table rivals Limerick and title contenders Derry City at the Brandywell! With players such as the Brennan brothers (Ryan and Gavin) and Declan “Fabio” O’Brien, Drogheda posses match winners capable of turning any game on its head in a matter of seconds and if “De Town” are to stay with their rivals for the ninety-minutes they will have to come up with a way of containing such players for as long as possible throughout proceedings on Saturday night.
Despite the favourites tag for Drogheda going into this 3rd round clash it is a cup game and the FAI Cup is all about upsets and magic so Longford Town fans are sure to draw on memories of Sean Dillon’s stunning FAI Ford Cup semi-final winner in 2004 against the “Drogs” as the Midlands club went onto retain their FAI Cup crown by beating Waterford United in an unforgettable final having defeated St.Pat’s in the decider at Landsdowne Road one year previous.
Those special years in the clubs history have built an unbreakable connection between the people of Longford and the FAI’s blue ribbon competition and as a result a large and passionate crowd is expected to attend Saturday’s game at the Strokestown Road venue. It has been six long years since Longford played in the Premier Division so games like this are an excellent opportunity for new supporters to come out and see some quality opposition with Drogheda United a team capable of employing varying styles of play. Many pundits will have you believe Mick Cooke’s side are nothing but a long ball team but nothing could be further from the truth with the likes of the aforementioned Brennan brothers extremely capable of playing a short and fast interlinking passing style which would open gaps in any defence.
Up front “Fabio” is regarded as one of the leagues best strikers, and rightfully so. The former St.Pat’s striker has bags of European experience (and goals) under his belt as well as achieving all there is to achieve in the game with a Premier and First Division title to go along with cup triumphs in all three major domestic competitions. With former Longford striker Peter Hynes an option from the bench for Mick Cooke it really does show how capable the “Drogs” are of playing different styles when needed.
While progression to the next round is obviously Longford’s objective on Saturday night what is most important for Tony Cousins is that his side continue to build confidence prior to next Friday’s make or break game away to promotion rivals Waterford United at the RSC.
This is a crucial time in Longford Town’s season and what we need more than anything is the support of the entire county for the remainder of the season as we aim to provide Premier Division football in 2014 so please get down to The City Calling Stadium this Saturday and get behind the boys!