Good evening and a big hello to everyone from the other side of the ground for what could be a historic night for our club! If you are reading this, it is safe to assume you understand the significance of this game. After seven long and torturous years in the graveyard of Irish Football, we have our best opportunity yet to “escape” and clinch not only the promotion which we have dreamed of for years but also to secure our first ever league title.
Three points and it’s job done...game over....lights out, no need to worry about the results of other teams over our shoulder, no need to have to go through another year of potential heartbreak through the dreaded playoffs and no need to have to need anything from next week’s game in Ballybofey, a place always hard to come out of with anything, including your shins! Having said that, we can’t be too hard on our friends from Donegal either after last weekend, in particular Mr Michael Funston, who should be made aware that if he is ever to venture to a game at the CCS in the near future, there will be a complimentary can of cheap, lukewarm beer waiting for him over in Section O, provided he’s not playing! This generous offer is of course subject to things going right on the pitch for us and Town fans of all people should know that it’s not over until it’s over!
We’ve now been 7 long years in this division, a division certainly on the less glamorous side of things regarding to Irish football! It is often suggested that to the majority of the Irish public, the League of Ireland is merely an afterthought, even for those who would consider themselves football fans. Well if the League in general is an afterthought, then the First Division is similar to a hazy regretful memory from a night out in Spiral Tree, you know it happened, you know it existed but you’d rather just forget about it and get on with your life. Media coverage of the League is pretty much non-existent, the national papers may add in the smallest of match reports should they be short on stories about Wayne Rooney’s general happiness, who John Terry is sleeping with or an analysis of a vast array of Roy Keane’s facial expressions from his latest training session and what they could possibly mean. Even the TV show dedicated to Irish and League of Ireland football rarely gives this division a mention.
It has been nicknamed the “Discover Ireland League” by many fans as away trips over the years have included round trips to Cobh, Waterford, Ballybofey and Wexford, all on a Friday evening. While some of the shorter trips have brought us to places such as Fahey’s Field and Drom, a place where you’d be surprised to find humans, let alone a football ground!
Life in the First Division has been tough. After a heart breaking end to our 2007 season, many fans stuck by us as we entered our first season out of the Premier since 1999/2000. We started off with a 5-1 thumping of newly formed Sporting Fingal, a new club with big plans helped by financial backing from Fingal County Council. A promising start and life in the First didn’t seem all that bad but realistically it was not a true reflection of where we were as a club. A club with a completely different squad from the season before having had to cut its wage bill down to a fraction of the size. We were fragile and would spend the next few seasons languishing at the bottom end of the First Division as the Club tried to build itself back up while most fans from the Premier Division days drifted away.
Over the last few years the Town’s fortunes improved as they slowly started to get back on their feet and became more of a force in the Division. While these years have certainly been more enjoyable than the previous years, they have also involved plenty of heart break for those following, particularly in the last two seasons. Twice we have held substantial leads at the midpoint of the season only to fall back in the latter stages and be forced to endure the devastation of losing out in the promotion playoffs. For those that have been along for the ride, the hurt from these experiences will only make this game all the more sweeter if we can get the job done.
Longford and Ireland was a different place when the Town last played in the Premier Division. As we played our last game before being relegated in November 2007, the country was on the brink of being plunged into recession due to the financial crisis. Anyone from Longford doesn’t need to be told of the effects of the recession and from just a quick drive through the town, the countless number of businesses that have either left or are no more in the town is evident. In terms of Irish football, a huge amount of clubs have also had to fold, Sporting Fingal, Kilkenny City, Dublin City, Kildare County and Monaghan United to name a few. All the while our club from our relatively small Town, one of the few clubs in the league to own its own ground, let alone have one of the best in the country has managed to not only keep its head above water but to grow and progress as a club, a credit to everyone involved.
The club is a better club now than when we were relegated all those years ago. It has built itself up to be a more stable, stronger club, ready for top flight football and with the recent ongoing development out at the CCS and more investment planned in youth football than ever before, it is a club building for the future.
Longford has had it tough recently and to say the people of Longford need a lift or something to cheer about is an understatement. Most will remember the glory days of years ago when we were in the Premier Division and how much enjoyment that brought to everyone. The cup finals, the trips to Europe, beating some of the biggest, most established clubs in the country regularly, all out on the Strokestown road. For years we were a well-established Premier Division club and some of us may have taken that for granted. This match is much more important than all of those matches put together as it can not only lift us into a position where those days may come back but also give a lift to a town and county that needs it! So to those of you here Friday evening, whether you’ve been here for the last seven years at games or if this is your first time out in some time or even if this is your first time ever out to the CCS, you’re more than welcome and we hope to see you out again next season no matter what happens!!
COME ON DE TOWN!!
“They say the Red and Black are Rising”
Not the first time we’ve used this headline this season but who cares, the song was belted out on the way down to Waterford, during the match and the whole way back to Longford on the bus last Friday as we took another huge step to the Premier Division. Trips to Waterford for some reason have always caused us problems, both football wise and travel wise and last week’s excursion was no different. From the very start we were left standing on the Dublin Road for over an hour as we waited for our bus which was caught up in traffic in Mullingar…or something! One hour of standing around with none of us really knowing what was going on, confused by the constant stream of buses pulling up to collect the local secondary students and bring them home for the weekend. Our confusion wasn’t helped when after an hour an actual school bus pulls in, which we are told is our bus for the long trip down to Waterford. The bus was bright yellow and had a cartoon of a bee painted on the side of it….Waterford Ultras beware!! After all this, we still managed to arrive down to Waterford just a short time after kick off, relatively impressive considering there have been times this season where we have missed whole halves of matches!
A group of about 50 or 60 Town fans settled themselves in the away end of the ground after their long journey and made sure they were making themselves heard! With regard to the game itself, we looked very comfortable and assured all along. Fair enough, the current Waterford team are not half the team they were over the last number of years but for a team under so much pressure we looked very relaxed. On 25 minutes, a fantastic through ball was played to Sully on the left wing who got to the by-line and delivered a close range cross onto the head of the onrushing Gary Shaw….1-0! Then just on the stroke of half time, a player who for many of us has been the stand out player of the season scored his first goal for the club in style as Jamie Mulhall belted a 30 yard strike from wide right into the bottom left hand corner of the net!!
This left most of us feeling quite content at half time to spend the break following events up in Ballybofey on our phones! For the second half we looked very comfortable and probably should have scored as Section O’s attention was slowly turning to events up North. With approximately 15 minutes to go in our game, pandemonium broke out in the away end as news filtered through that Harps had gone 2-1 up!! Chants of “2-1 to the Finn Harps” and “Finn Harps til half 9” filled the away end of the RSC but our celebrations were short lived as minutes later the news broke through that Shels had equalised…2-2! Knowing that a draw would still be a great result for us but also aware of the fact that the game in Ballybofey was 15 minutes behind us, Town fans spent the last few minutes of our game quite nervous despite being 2-0 up with little threat from the blues! As the final whistle blew, “They say the Red and Black are rising” once again blasted out from the away end as the players were sung off the pitch! Knowing we would have to wait another 15 minutes or so to know the result of the Shels match, all Town fans remained in the ground with absolutely no let up to the chorus of chants serenading the players as they did their warm down!
At this stage the Waterford stewards seemed to be getting a bit restless asking for the drumming to stop and telling us that the place had to be closed by 10 o’clock as if their lives depended on it! They ushered us down one step at a time, the drum still going and all fans still in full voice. As we got to the bottom of the stand, everyone was just beginning to get tired and quieten down when the news came in….3-2 to Harps….cue all hell breaking loose yet again! The stewards lifted their eyes to the sky just as quick as some of Section O lifted their shirts over their heads! The chants started up all over again as we slowly made our way out of the ground towards the bus, embracing each other in disbelief as the full time whistle blew in Ballybofey. We all knew that given the two respective fixtures, something like this was possible but the way in which it came about was something else!
We hopped back on our small, uncomfortable, luminous bus for the long trip home, acknowledging that the job wasn’t fully done yet but fully aware of the significance of the night’s events! As trips home from Waterford go, we’ve had some bad ones, the night coming home from the playoff in 2012 being one of the main ones. This trip was possibly up there with one of the most uncomfortable certainly but as we compared it to ones years gone by, few of us could have too many complaints, especially with the knowledge that it very well could be our last for some time!
Regardless of what happens Friday, we play our last game of the season next Sunday against Finn Harps in Ballybofey at 3.00 pm. A huge Longford crowd is expected and many of us have been looking forward to this game for months…years even. The mood of Town fans up in Ballybofey next Sunday will either be celebratory or gut wrenchingly nervous depending on Friday's game but we will be hoping it’s the former! We are planning on running at least one bus if not two depending on demand so if interested text Kieran on 0831670304 as soon as possible!!
Chant of the Week
In the two seasons we have been writing these notes, only once have we featured the same song twice as our chant of the week. However due to the significance of Friday's big game and after an 20 minute plus rendition of it last Friday night in Waterford, we feel it is apt to use it for a third time. To the tune of the Argentina chant made famous at this year’s World Cup “Brasil decime que se siente”.
“They say the Red and Black are rising…..De Town are back where we belong…
Athlone’s the laughing stock of Ireland….they’re not worth a **** now Roddy’s gone…
The Bandwagon broke down….and they fecked their real fans out….we’re having a party when Athlone go down…
We’ve been 7 years away….and when we go up we will stay….
David O’Sullivan is the white Pele..”
Tweets of the Week
Some of this week’s best tweets in the build up to the big game;
Paul Hunt @hunty_1 “ Great win tonight! Buzzing! Fans were class once again!”
@DavyOSullivan15 “I always said that Funston chap was a sound lad J ”
@CCairbre “Still beaming after last night…football, bloody hell! Let’s wrap it up next week in front of the Section O!!”
@jameseroo “Dear @FinnHarpsFC, Thank you & we hope you in the Cup. Yours Sincerely, Section O!”
@KeithGillespie7 “Well off to Longford Town Fc on Friday to hopefully see the lads win the First Division Championship. Good luck to Salmo and the Team!
As always to keep up to date with the latest Section O news, like our page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @section_o_ltfc!