Match Report by James Donnelly
Longford Town FC came into this game at City Calling Stadium riding a wave of confidence following a thrilling 1-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers in the second round of the EA Sports Cup last Tuesday night in Tallaght. Captain on the night Daniel O’Reilly knocking the south Dublin team out of the competition with a goal in the 89th minute. Donegal’s Finn Harps came to the Midlands following a 1-0 win over Cabinteely in Ballybofey last weekend courtesy of an 86th minute strike from Sam Todd. Ollie Horgan had been to every home game of Longford’s this season so the Northerners would have been well prepared.
Harps started the game well and caught De Town napping in the 6th minute. The ball came out to BJ Banda on the left flank whose cross to Mark Coyle allowed him to easily turn onto his right and slot it by Michael Kelly in the Longford goal, albeit with a little help from the post.
From that moment on, and indeed for the entirety of the game, it was all Longford Town. Aodh Dervin (who went off injured at half-time) picked up the ball in the centre of the field, he picked out Dylan McGlade whose shot from distance was just wide of the Finn Harps post.
Only moments later, centre back and captain once again, Daniel O’Reilly, found himself on the right wing. He crossed the ball in for Sam Verdon who headed it back into the path of number 9, Chris Mulhall. Mulhall hesitated somewhat but managed to get his shot off only for it to be cleared off the line by Harps’ Paddy McCourt.
Mulhall was in the thick of it once again on 24 minutes when midfielder Jamie Hollywood cut inside from the right wing and toe pocked it to Mulhall whose diagonal shot was saved by Harps net minder Gallagher.
On 30 minutes, McGlade went close again from Longford. This time, cutting inside from the left wing, he took a swerving shot from distance that left Gallagher flat footed in goal but it just went narrowly over the bar.
Tension was building and tempers flared over when Harps player Michael O’Connor appeared to recklessly challenge Town defender Karl Chambers in the 38th minute, a bit of pushing and shoving between a number of players ensued with Harps manager Ollie Horgan becoming very animated on the sideline. In the end, a yellow card was handed out to O’Connor for Harps. Alas, it wasn’t the last time that night that an O’Connor would receive a yellow, nor was it the end of some reckless challenges from the Harps players.
Longford had an appeal for a penalty turned down on 40 minutes. A botched clearance from Harps deflected back off Jamie Hollywood into the box where it appeared that number 5, Keith Cowan handled the ball but despite protests from Chris Mulhall and De Town faithful, the ref waved play on. Hollywood followed it up with a close range shot but it was parried away and eventually saved on the line by Gallagher.
Town eventually equalized just before the half time whistle. The ever lively Dylan McGlade again, picked the ball up on the left wing, he played a one-two with Sam Verdon and rifled his shot low into the bottom corner to leave Harps reeling going into the break.
Dylan McGlade, scorer of Town's goal on 45 minutes
Half time saw De Town make one substitution, Aodh Dervin, who played magnificently in midfield, seemed to have been targeted by the Harps players and was on the receiving end of some outrageous challenges, one which left him with a bloody nose and one which eventually led to him needing to be replaced. Evan Galvin came on in his place.
The second half continued like the first. Longford had the majority of possession and chances but failed to capitalize on them.
Darren Meenan came close with a cross in the opening seconds that seemed to catch Gallagher out as he tipped it over the bar for a corner.
Town had another call for a penalty again from a possible handball in the 50th minute. A Town corner was headed across goal from Tristan Noack-Hofmann, the ball seemed to hit McCourt's hand and then bounce off a Harps defender standing on the goal line. A number of Town players immediately called out for a penalty but to no avail. Watching the video footage after, it appeared that the ball did in fact hit McCourt's hand but whether or not the ref had a clear view is another story.
Mark Coyle was lucky not to be sent off for Finn Harps in the 69th minute after a two footed tackle on Evan Galvin brought the Cork man down. The Harps players immediately swarmed the referee and eventually it was Ciaran O’Connor who received a yellow card, presumably for his animated protests. The resulting free kick was blocked and it fell to McGlade whose cross was met by Sam Verdon but his header was easily gathered by Gallagher.
It was beginning to look like it just wasn’t meant to be Longford’s night. A corner kick in the 73rd minute saw Michael McDonnell’s header get flicked on by substitute Dean Byrne but his effort was, yep, you guessed it, cleared off the line by a Harps defender.
A speculative effort from Tristan Noack-Hofmann followed by a close range shot from Dylan McGlade wasn’t enough to snatch a winner for Longford. Heartbreak came once again in the dying moments for Longford.
A free in from Harps in the 90th minute saw the ball go over Michael McDonnell’s head into the arms of Town keeper Michael Kelly who dropped the ball, the ball hit the back of McDonnell’s leg and fell into the path of Sam Todd who slotted it into an empty net. And that was it.
A frustrating night in City Calling Stadium for Neale Fenn & Co. However, De Town can take some positives from the game even if they are only small ones. Aodh Dervin, before going off injured was immense in the midfield, Dylan McGlade had a blinder and Karl Chambers put in a Man of the Match performance. De Town are creating so many chances and it was one mistake that turned the game. In the end, it could have been 5-1 to Longford but that’s football for you.
Aodh Dervin had another great game for De Town before going off injured.
Longford Town: Kelly, Chambers, McDonnell, O’Reilly (C), Noack-Hofmann, McGlade, Dervin (Galvin 45’), Holywood (Zambra 85’), Meenan, Verdon, Mulhall (Byrne 70’)
Subs not used: Brady, Ridge, Ryan, O’Connor.
Finn Harps: Gallagher, Coyle, Todd, Timlin, Cowan, O’Connor (O’Flynn 60’), Friel, Coll (C), McBride, Banda (Devers 72’), McCourt (Toland 66’)