Due to the poor result at home, loads of town fans pulled out and in the end 32 fans went on the Section O bus and 15 fans on the Supporters Club bus. The confidence wasn't as high as it was the previous week and our bus missed the kickoff by a minute or two due to the motorway being closed between Carlow and Kilkenny. The omens were not great when Keith Callanan was appointed by the FAI to ref this game and resulting from what happened previously in the RSC a few weeks previous, peoples spirit was far downhill than before.
From what I saw at the start we had loads of chances but yet again on the break Seanie Maguire broke past Mick Lee,hit at Craig Hyland and he parried to Peter Higgins who couldn't miss. It was a huge blow to us and it meant that we were 3-0 down.
Noel Haverty had a great chance to score for us just before halftime when he headed wide.Then unbelievably Callanan gave a decision for us and sent off Seamus Long who dragged Austin Skelly back as he beared down on goal.This was the third time this season that Callanan sent off Long! It was just outside the box and Thomas Crawley skyed the freekick over. Tony Griffiths then missed a sitter as Thomas Crawley hit a super cross and Griffiths missed the chance.
We finally got just rewards for our majority of the possession when Noel Haverty hit a super cross which was deflected and Alan Kirby couldn't miss at all.Noel Haverty was unlucky not to score but his header went narrowly wide. The final whistle went and it sank in that we didn't deserve to go through over two legs. One consolation was at last we scored a goal for the first time since late September when we lost to SD Galway at home and our sequence of a possible sixth league defeat on the bounce was at a end.
From feedback from fans at the game, so many Town fans were disgruntled with the poor football on order since the shock FAI Cup loss to Cherry Orchard. Someone online made the valid point why was Keith Gillespie not given the opportunity to hit set-pieces like earlier in the season when everything he touched turned to gold. But the damage has being done, we dropped way too many points against the lowest placed teams and in hindsight we should never have dropped so many players against Limerick and Finn Harps.
It is in the club's main interest in what to do next but I wouldn't be surprised if there were changes ahead as new blood is badly needed but that is a debate is for another day.
END OF AN ERA
So after 264 appearances and 29 goals Alan “Kirbs” Kirby has retired from the game. He announced his decision before the match in the RSC and it is a sad day for all. He was fifteen years in the League of Ireland and was favourite at all the clubs he played for in Ireland, (Waterford Utd, Longford Town, St Pats Athletic, Sporting Fingal, Sligo Rovers and finally us).
I first set eyes on him in the 99-00 season when we played them in the FAI Cup when we knocked them out when they were at the time a top flight team. He also played against us when we met in the FAI Cup semi final in 2000/01 season.
It was Stephen Kenny who brought him to Longford Town along with Alan Reynolds and he made his debut in 2001 when we played Cork City in the FAI Supercup (that preseason tournament which was a once-off). He soon became a fans favourite and got a job with Flancare originally and played partime. But when Alan Mathews came to us, he became fulltime. Especially in the early years of his tenure with us, he scored some absolute gems. My favourite Kirbs memory besides “two balls on the pitch, Alan Kirby's going to score!” from the FAI Cup final in 2004 was the majestic lob in Drogheda in 2002/03 season when he scored not far from the centre circle. He had such a low level of gravity and was able to go past players with ease. He confirmed his gentlemanly status in the league when he refused to celebrate in the 04 cup final after equalising against them
He firmly set down his roots and started going out with local girl, Caitriona Norton. He played in all of the cup finals we played in except for the 2007 cup final when he was at St Pats. He deservedly got player of the season in 2006 and was top scorer too but made the decision shortly afterwards that he wanted to find new pastures new.
He spent two seasons with St Pats Athletic in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He then went to Sporting Fingal and was part of the squad against Sligo Rovers that won the 2009 cup final when they were a first division side. He then spent another season with them in 2010 and then joined Paul Cook at Sligo Rovers where he was a fans favourite with 40 odd appearances and 8 goals. He was very unfortunate to miss his second FAI Cup final when Paul Cook controversially didn't bring him on and put on Ciaran Kelly on instead when they beat Shels in the final.
At this time he had married Caitriona and had a young kid. So it was with great delight that he came back to us during the last pre-season. It took him a while to settle back again but he deservedly got player of the month for September and made 29 appearances and was second joint top scorer with 5 goals.
It was a sad day when he announced his retirement but he can concentrate on his accounting career in Dublin full-time and continue his daily commute up and down and look after his two kids with Caitriona. He is a legend in the game especially with Longford Town and has earned the trust of some many people in Longford that you would forget that he is from Waterford! He is second on the all time appearances for Longford Town after Stephen O'Brien and fifth on the all-time goal list for us with 29 goals, the same as Dave Mooney! This is since our first season in the League of Ireland since the 84-85 season.
I for one on behalf of the supporters club, Section O and Longford Town would like to wish Kirbs a long and fruitful retirement. He always went to our matches even when he wasn't part of our squad and I am sure that he will come back through our gates again.
To finish off I wish to quote a Section O song that shows his status in the game- ”Kirbs, Kirbs will tear you apart again!” in tribute to the classic tune from Joy Division from 1980.
It was with great joy that I read that we had two players in the 1st division team of the season Noel Haverty and Keith Gillepsie. I was very disappointed that Thomas Crawley didn't make it and was surprised that Keith made it but in hindsight he deserves to be on it.
It is with great pleasure that I wish to announce the player of the season nominees for Longford Town. This was the best season from us in a long time and for the first time ever I have four nominees for the prestigious honour. The four are:
Noel Haverty: For a player that only came to us at the start of the season he has made some impression defensively.His calmness under pressure was a major part on why we did so well early in the season and he was much missed when we hit our bad run towards the end of the season. He had spent a year out of the game after being with St Pats previously.
Craig Hyland: He came to us from Newbridge town at the start of the season and made such a huge impression that previous goalkeeper Paul Hunt lost his place in the team. He is the best shotstopper since Seamus Kelly that we have had and I wouldn't be surprised if he earns a move to a bigger LOI club in pre-season. He was a major reason why we didn't let in more goals.
Thomas Crawley: Tomo became a huge fans favourite especially with my comrades in Section O. His crossing was second to none and his passion on the pitch to his teammates and to our supporters endeared himself to many. He only came to us the midway part of 2011 season when Don Cowan was about to depart to Stevenage.
Keith Gillespie: Keith, I'm sure would be the players choice. He was immense earlier in the season when his set-piece delivery was a massive contributory factor to why we started the season so far. As the rest of the season went on, for some reason he wasn't asked to contribute to setpieces which in my opinion is a reason why our season collapsed. His best work was unseen seeing opportunities either defensively or attacking wise that no other player could forsee.
So that's the four. We don't know as of yet when the player of the season awards will take place as our chairman is unwell at present but it will encourage lively debate and everyone will know in due course.
The goal of the season is for Collie James effort in Lissywollen earlier in the season and his effort against Limerick nearly made it but this won big time!
ACHIEVEMENT OF THE SEASON
As a lot of people know, I got recognition from the club for being at every home and away game including friendlies. Due to me working in Dublin this year, I had to give up going to a lot of away games and missed around 11 of these this season.
But I would like to acknowledge the special achievement of Rachel McKeon from Elphin who went to every home and away game this season including friendlies. I would like to congratulate her on her special achievement and hope she will get special achievement from the club (hint hint!) for this. Well done again Rachel!
It has being a season of highs and lows but the highs from earlier in the season were great memories especially when we went four months being top of the table after beating Waterford and Limerick away. We also went unbeaten away for a long time until Waterford a few short weeks ago. I know the season ended badly but in hindsight Waterford were more consistent than us and deserved to get second place.
But I want to thank the Longford Town management, board and players for the great memories from earlier in the season. Because of this, Section O for the first time in five years really organised themselves superbly and I on behalf of Section O would to recognise Kevin “Cabs” Carberry for his hard work in making this happen. Not every supporter grouping is perfect but we have made a superb effort at home and away and I would like to thank Kevin for his hard work which has being noted by the players.
I would like to thank Tiernan for allowing me the opportunity to write three weeks worth of notes especially towards the end of the season.. I would gladly hand back duties to Tiernan but you know where I am if you want me to do this again!
If you believe in omens, in the 98-99 season we also went four months on top and tailed badly to finish fourth.. As for the following season..........