INTERVIEW BY ANDREW DEMPSEY
All systems are go in the Longford Town dressing room ahead of El Clasico de Midlands this Friday evening at Athlone Town Stadium.
During an off-season of change, Neale Fenn brought in plenty of reinforcements to deal with many of the notable departures from City Calling Stadium. One man who has joined an impressive squad during the off-season is defender Conor Kenna who has a glittering CV to say the least.
The 34-year-old defensive rock at the heart of the Longford defence has impressed suitably since his arrival at the Strokestown Road venue.
So, ahead of the El Clasico on Friday evening the former Premier Division title winning captain spoke to LTFC.ie ahead of the crunch derby clash at the Co. Westmeath venue.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time at the club to be fair.” The former Bray Wanderers centre back said.
“I was kind thinking of giving up football at the tail end of last season. Daire and Neale got onto me and asked me to come and see if I wanted to give it another go and as soon as I went in, I really enjoyed it. They’ve got a great bunch of lads together and a great atmosphere around the place. It’s great seeing a good bunch of las all wanting to work hard for each other and that’s what you have here.”
It has been a solid start to the season for Neale Fenn’s side so far this season.
A strong defence has underpinned the impressive nature of Town’s opening four performances of the season. Kenna, while being pleased with his defensive showings thus far, has been impressed with the team effort so far within the Longford Town dressing room.
“Neale has his way of playing and it’s great. He sticks to it and it is great to see. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, he likes us to play football the right way and I can’t complain at the moment!
“The clean sheets are an overall thing really. It shows you how hard we are prepared to work for one another. I know we had a bit of luck against Drogheda with Lee (Steacey) pulling off some incredible saves. Even the cup game as well against Cockhill Celtic we got a clean sheet with a different team so it’s nice to be in an environment like that.
“You obviously want to win your first game, but we went down to Limerick, it’s a tough place to go to and with it being the first game of the season it’s always going to be harder and to come away with a draw was good. We played some good football at times. We’re very happy with the start we had, saying that we would’ve liked more points but that’s football. The Cabinteely game was a disgrace, the pitch was a disgrace, but a draw was probably a fair result. We were happy coming away from it with a draw and knowing that we can play better.”
Having endured a tumultuous year at the Carlisle Grounds last year, 2019 has the makings of a year to remember for the former Coventry City youth.
Eager to right the wrongs of last year’s disappointment in Co. Wicklow, Conor is looking at promotion to lift his mood after the bitter taste of relegation last year.
“I want to turn things around after what happened at Bray last year. I feel like I’ve got a point to prove and Paul O’Conor is like me in that sense after last year at Bray. It wasn’t an ideal year for us, and we just want to get back enjoying our football again. You enjoy football when you’re winning so getting promoted is the aim!”
This Clasico has the makings of a real classic, cue the christened name of the game. In addition, this will be Kenna’s first engagement with the Clasico, a prospect which excites the multi-trophy winner greatly.
“I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a fair bit of slagging going on at the minute with Aodh letting us know how important this game is. He’s been tormenting us all week about it. I’ve never played in one of these games before, so I don’t know exactly what it’s like but going by what Aodh has said, I’ll be taking his advice for definite.
Having played in so many big games previously, the former UCD defensive mainstay noted that he will be looking to utilise his big game experience from times gone by.
“Yeah hopefully I’ll be looking to use my experience on Friday. To be honest I’m just looking forward to getting back out there on the pitch. We didn’t play last weekend, so I just want to get back out there and get another game under my belt. Hopefully we can get a good result and start a good run on our push for promotion!”
And finally, with the hours just counting down to the big kick-off in Co. Westmeath, Conor had this message for the fans ahead of Friday night’s clash down the N55.
“It’s been my first time at the club and I’ve really enjoyed what the fans have brought to the table for us. the fans have been great during the games. They know what the game means to them and the players know what it means as well, as Aodh has driven it into us! We’ll be all up for it and hopefully we can grab a win at the end of the game!”