Many roads around Ireland have improved, but the road from Longford to Dundalk is the same as it was in Cú Chulainn's time...twisty, bendy and a challenge to any driver. The stiff breeze soon blew away any lingering travel sickness as the clash of champions kicked off. A large local crowd of about 2,000 had turned up expecting an easy start to their season. Despite our solid enough opening, we fell one behind just after the quarter hour mark.
Then when keeper Paul Hunt had to be substituted after an over robust jostle (no card given), the large and vocal travelling crowd sighed silently.
However, the hosts failed to add to their tally before half time which gave us much needed breathing space. Playing against a stiff breeze , many thought we were in for a torrid second period. But the opposite happened. De Town grew in confidence and took the game more and more to Stephen Kenny's charges. Dundalk continued to try their slick passing but time and again, we denied them time on the ball as we got more in their faces. The introduction of a sharp Sully started to send shivers down their spines as they clung on desperately to a slender lead. Dangerous on the break,Skinner brought off two magnificent saves from Dundalk attacks while Rogers saved the hosts' blushes with two excellent saves of his own. He tipped Gary Shaw's effort off the crossbar and turned Sully's goal bound effort out for a corner.
The final whistle was greeted with relief by the home supporters and with some frustration by ourselves. De Town deserved a share of the points with a spirited, skillfull, passionate display. As one knowledgeable supporter noted, if Dundalk are supposed to be the pick of the bunch, then we're not so far off the mark at all.
Overall, it was a good encouraging display but what dampened spirits was the realisation of that horrible road trip home to Longford.
This season, it's intended to rate the various grounds around the land and to mark them out of five stars. Oriel Park is set in a built up area with no visible car parking arrangements. The stewards seemed friendly enough but searching a 12 year old's bag seemed a bit excessive. The away section was uncovered and was poor, very poor. The toilet facilities were dreadful and the area between the hoarding and the fence was filthy. The chip van proved inadequate and the shop's location remains a closely guarded secret. The PA system didn't work and if there was a score board/clock, it was hidden from our view. The ball girls weren't properly attired which was a surprise. Full marks though to the bumper match programme. Oriel Park gets one star.
CAR BOOT SALE
St Patrick's Day sees the first of our Car Boot Sales for the season. At this stage, hundreds of locals realise what fantastic bargains are to be had and are joined by sellers and buyers from all over Ireland. Though we say it all starts at 10am, some stall holders are waiting before dawn to set up for the day ahead. However, 3pm is when it all ends. We really could do with more volunteers to help clean up after 3pm. The more the merrier. There are many ways to support De Town and while cleaning up after a car boot sale may not be the most attractive, it's as vital as any other way.
This Saturday sees our first home game in the top flight in many long years. Our opposition represent another massive challenge when we host Shamrock Rovers. Naturally they'll be on a high after beating fellow Dubs, St Patrick's Athletic at the week-end. This game hypes itself, suffice to say a large crowd is expected so do come early to avoid a last minute surge. The Clubhouse will be open before the game, so you can relax and have a cup of tea for just €1. It is hoped that David O'Sullivan will be presented with his trophy by the Longford Unite Project for being Longford's most inspirational sports person in 2014 .
NEW LOOK WEBSITE
Padraig Stapleton gets five stars for his wonderful work in creating, maintaining and updating the Longford Town FC website. His most recent work is a credit to him and surely ranks as one of the best in the land. Despite living in exile and far away from the City Calling Stadium and the red and black army, Padraig does a truly remarkable job. If you want an example of a labour of love carried out by an unsung hero, look no further. Thank you Padraig, we dearly wish we could repay you in gold.
JOIN THE SUPPORTERS' CLUB
This season more than any other we really need more members in our Supporters' Club. Envelopes will be available in the Clubhouse this week end. Ten euro for adults and five for children gets you signed up. And remember this is half what we charged years ago. In joining, you're supporting local sport, you get a 10% cut in club merchandise and get included in free monthly raffles and maybe even more yet to be announced. C'mon, join us, you know you want to.