Match Report by Tony Ghee
Longford Town cruised past Athlone Town at the City Calling Stadium winning by five goals to one in the first El Classico of the season with Chris Mulhall and Dean Byrne both scoring a brace while Evan Galvin completed the scoring for the home side.
The contest marked the first senior league start for local youngster Aodh Dervan who recovered from a nervous start to put in a tremendous display that caught the eye, while Evan Galvin also impressed as he also stepped up to the plate in the absence of five regular starters who were out due to a combination of suspensions and injuries.
Chris Mulhall continued his explosive start to the season as he not only scored twice but he also assisted two of the other three goals and he will certainly be a key player in Longford’s promotion push this season.
Despite the one-sided contest, it was Athlone who struck first, as a poor header from McDonnell after a mix up in the Longford defence presented an opportunity to Athlone striker McCullough who despatched a glorious twenty-two yard strike over Town keeper Kelly to the Longford net.
The home side dominated after that with a third minute Galvin shot producing a fine save from Athlone keeper O’Donnell and after constant pressure, Longford eventually equalised on twenty minutes.
Elworthy rampaged down the right wing and delivered a sumptuous curling cross that picked out Mulhall and although his initial shot was superbly saved by O’Donnell, Mulhall pounced to drill home the rebound.
Four minutes later, a thirty yard strike from Galvin whistled narrowly past the Athlone post and in the thirty-third minute, a perfectly weighted pass from Zambra set-up Byrne as he beat the Athlone offside trap, he raced towards the visitors goal and rounded keeper O’Donnell only to shoot into the side netting from a very tight angle.
Byrne made amends for that miss just sixty seconds later as he latched onto a delicious Mulhall pass to fire a low diagonal shot beyond the despairing dive of O’Donnell into the bottom right corner of the Athlone net to put the home side two one up.
Mulhall was at the heart of the action again on forty-one minutes as he floated a ball from the right with the outside of his right boot towards Byrne. Athlone centre-half Jake O’Connor tried to clear the danger only to slice his attempted clearance over his own keeper and Byrne who was making his first start of the campaign, gleefully accepted the gift to slot home his second of the contest and Longford’s third.
Longford launched wave after wave of attacks and missed numerous chances to increase their lead. On fifty-six minutes, Chambers left-wing cross found Mulhall at the back post and although he did not connect properly with his effort, the ball trickled past Athlone stopper O’Donnell towards the net, however, Rafferty cleared the ball off the line.
Longford did rattle the Athlone net for a fourth time in the fifty-eighth minute as a Chambers cross came back off the post straight into the path of Mulhall who nodded home his second goal of the game from close range.
Four minutes later, Longford should have gone five-one up as a pin-point Noack-Hofmann cross picked out the unmarked Byrne just five yards out from goal, but instead of completing his hat-trick, he inexplicably fired wide.
On sixty-eight minutes, the visitors survived a major scare as a Mulhall shot was brilliantly saved by O’Donnell and the rebound from Chambers was cleared off the line by Athlone substitute Williams.
Byrne then found himself with just Athlone stopper O’Donnell to beat only for the keeper to make a magnificent save and two minutes later Chambers struck the Athlone side-netting when he should have scored.
The scoring was completed on seventy-four minutes as Noack-Hofmann passed to Mulhall who set-up Galvin to fire home from sixteen yards to give Longford a five-one victory.
Longford Town: Kelly, Elworthy, McDonnell, O’Reilly, Adam O’Connor (Noack-Hofmann 45′), Chambers, Dervan, Zambra (Hollywood 72′), Byrne, Mulhall (Ryan 84′), Galvin.
Athlone Town: O’Donnell, Short, Rafferty, O’Connor, Fletcher, Boyle (Williams 51′), Grogan, Hamzat, Brilly, Nkololo (Davies 45′), McCullough (Walsh 80′).
Referee: Mark Lynch.