LONGFORD TOWN FC U19's
Season preview by Rachael McKeon
On the first weekend of September the Longford Town U-19’s kick off their second season in the U-19 Airtricity league. This season sees them playing in the six team Southern Division along with Athlone Town, Wexford Youths, Limerick, Mervue Utd and GUST (Galway Utd). They will play each team three times in the league and there is also the U19 National Cup to play for.
I spoke to U19’s Assistant Manager Adrian Massop to get the views and hopes of the management team for the season ahead.
So with the U19 season only weeks away how is the squad shaping up?
As it stands we are almost at the full complement of 22 players allowed by the FAI. We had a great turn out to our open trials with 8 players from last year’s squad coming back and over 40 players in total attending our trials. We had players from Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Kildare, Tipperary, Dublin, Offaly, Meath, Westmeath and Cavan on trial with us. This I think really shows how Longford Town is seen as a good club to be involved with. It also shows that players from many counties are willing to put a lot of time, money and hard work into helping improve the club and to help bring it and themselves to the next level. We have players from within a 25/30km radius of Flancare Park plus players from Kildare and Dublin and we are still looking at one or two more to fill spaces available. So we have a great mix. Many of these players have played in the DDSL and in various national and international competitions so are very experienced for their age.
Your opening game of the season is at home to Athlone Town. Does this add to the excitement of a new season?
There is always an excitement when it comes to a new season and of course there will always be a certain amount of expectation around also. To open with a home derby game will make it a little bit more of an incentive to open with a positive result I hope.
How are your plans for the season coming together?
They are going very well we had 3 open trials and from this we have a good squad coming together now. We are really happy that all the underage players still eligible to play again this year came back and their experience from last year will be invaluable to help the new players settle into the cut and thrust of the Airtricity U19 league.
You mention cut and thrust of the league. How will this be different to the leagues the players are coming from?
Firstly the training will be a lot more intense for the players as this is the reserve team at the club. All the players are expected to get their fitness levels to a standard where if they are required to train and play in the first team that they can make that step up. Secondly there is the travel aspect of the league. We will have games this season in Wexford and Limerick with 2pm kick off so leaving Longford early in the morning and having to make sure that the players eat correctly, deal with the long bus journeys to and from the games make this a great learning experience for the players who want to make a career in the league of Ireland and to reach the professional ranks in football. Finally the games are played at a high tempo and where you very rarely get time on the ball so you must always be on top of your game, be concentrating and working hard. If you switch off at this level even for a second you concede a goal. This is where the players from last season will definitely be able to help and advise the players coming into the squad this season.
What are your expectations for the season ahead?
The main expectations just like last season is that the squad works hard and take on board all that Philip (Manager), myself and any coaches that help us out tell them. We would hope to be competitive from the start of the season as we have and are continuing to have a great pre- season programme. As this in our view is a development league our aim and hope is to get as many players as possible ready for and into the first team squad. From last season’s squad we had 4 players in the first team squad 3 of which made appearances, Noel Fallon (GK), Efe Soidje (ST) (vs. Bray in the Lenister Senior Cup) and Dean Cosgrave (MF) who has played in a number of first team friendlies and is again in our U19 squad this season. Conor Devlin (GK) has been on the bench for the first team and is still signed for them until the end of their season. Obviously results matter but for us the fact that we already have players in and around the first team is a major success and we hope to equal or even improve this in the coming and following seasons.
Finally I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to partake in this interview and wish everyone involved with the U19’s the best of luck for the season ahead.