A large Longford Town following headed west to Athlone on Friday night with expectations high, if for no other reason than we normally play better away than at home. The autumnal nip in the air was soon forgotten as our own El Classico kicked off.Despite being short seven first team players for a variety of reasons, it was the visitors who took command of the first half and totally dominated affairs. Colm James opened our account after about 20 minutes with a cracking shot following a terrific build up from the left. Shortly afterwards we all thought we have doubled our advantage when Karl Birmingham lopped the keeper only to see his deft effort cleared off the line. It certainly appeared at that stage that we'd go and win with a few to spare but despite numerous chances, we were only one up at the break when it should have been more comfortable.
With Longford Town attacking the goal in front of us and Section O doing their best to will an other goal, the opposite happened. In fairness to our hosts, they made some telling substitutions and following a mistake from our own throw, an Athlone sub fashioned a corner from which Noel Harney scored the sickening equaliser with just fifteen minutes. Try as we might after that, it appeared that we were running out of steam. Yet in the dying seconds we had a glorious chance to steal all three points after one of their players made a mistake in putting the ball back into the box. But a bit earlier it was Athlone who could have nicked it when one of their own deflected a goalward bound shot out wide.
In the end maybe a draw was fair because the visitors really defended well and were never overawed despite being that early goal down. But it felt like we had lost three valuable points, especially when word filtered through that Waterford had scored against Limerick. On the short but slow drive home, there was plenty of time to mull over the result but as one optimist put it, if we win all remaining games, then we'll be OK. Glass half full!
WEXFORD AT HOME
The boys in pink with the Carlow based manager visit us on Saturday night for what's an other very tough game. Wexford had a massive win at the week-end which will see them all fired up for this encounter. Hopefully we'll have our suspended players back but sadly we'll be without three who picked up injuries recently and will be out for the rest of the season. It's going to be a tense run and that's for sure. With games away to Finn Harps and Waterford yet to come, it just doesn't get any easier at all. But it was great to see so many Longford Town supporters travel to Athlone and if we can make the same noise with an even larger crowd at Flancare, it should help the cause all the more. See you in Flancare Saturday night.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH/AUGUST
August was a short month from a playing point of view but there were still plenty of nominations for our player of the month award, which is of course in memory of our dear departed friend John Donlon. The winner from a group of three is Karl Birmingham. He's our worthy winner for the massive amount of work he puts into every game and even if not in possession, he 's a real workhorse with a phenomenal workrate. He'll receive his trophy from Brendan Turner, our chairman before the Wexford game on Saturday night.
It's great to have a bit of good news for a change. First up, we'd like to congratulate Noel Nolan,Legan, one of our most loyal supporters, on his 50th wedding anniversary. He's been married to Kathleen for five decades and they're still mad about each other. There was a lovely celebration last week at his welcoming house in Legan and though not in the best of health, Noel was still well able to sing a few songs and enjoy the bubbly which flowed freely. Though unable to travel to matches recently, Noel keeps a sharp eye of every single game and hopes to be back next season for our return to the top flight! Congrats too to Shane Connolly who recently achieved his EUFA B coaching license. It's only a matter of time before he gives up Tallaght to coach a proper team. Last but by no means least, heartiest congratulations to Padraig Stapleton who has secured a casual role with the Irish Sun as a page designer and is returning from London in the next few months to take up this prestigious position.
U19 CALL UP
Four players from the domestic league have been called up to join the Ireland U 19 squad which is a massive boost for those of us who continue to follow our own league. It's also a huge lift for the league itself and especially for the First division with half of them coming from the lower section. The four to be honoured are Eoin Hyland, St Patrick's Athletic, Colm Horgan,Salthill Devon, Brian Lenihan,Cork City and Sean Maguire. They play Latvia in a friendly on Saturday September 8th over there. The game is in preparation for the EUFA U19 Championship first qualifying round in Luxemburg in October 11-16 where Paul Doolin's side meet the hosts Germany and FYRMacedonia. It's a pity that Sean Maguire will be missing next week and not when we play Waterford as he seems to be one of their most potent players at the moment. But we wish him and the others all the best anyway.
Apologies for the slagging Tony Ghee received the week before last in this column. No harm was meant at all to the most genial of all gentlemen associated with the club.It's a poor excuse but it was, as we so often say in Longford”only slagging”. We were also rapped over the knuckles for some misinformation in relation to getting scorers wrong on two occasions in the last few seasons. Again, we apologise to the scorers, their friends and family.
Our chairman Jim Hanley is making significant waves in the farming industry of late. First there was an impressive piece about his important export work to China on the Farmers Journal. Then on Saturday morning last, he was featured on Countrywide on RTE radio which again marked his important contribution in a vital industry. How Jim finds time to look after LTFC as well as being Ireland's leading agri industrialist and exporter is mind boggling, but we're sure glad he does.