Despite pre-season still being in it’s infancy, Longford Town FC and Limerick served up some decent fair at the City Calling Stadium on a bitterly cold and damp Wednesday night. Having being brought to extra-time in the Munster Senior Cup by Cobh Wanderers over the weekend, many would have been forgiven for thinking Limerick may field a weakened side for this friendly game but with the likes of Barry Hall, Shane Treacy and Paul O’Conor all involved it made for a strong “Super Blues” line up. As for the hosts, the vast majority of Longford’s eight new signings made their debuts for the club while star men such as David O’Sullivan and Kevin O’Connor lined out from the start.
It didn’t take long for the game to come to life as six minutes in former Cork City youngster Stephen Kelly picked up the ball twenty-five yards from goal before unleashing a rasping curler straight into the top right-hand corner of Paul Skinner’s net to give the First Division side a lead against the run of play. Limerick’s extra game time over the early stages of pre-season then began to show as the Munster men started to win the fifty/fifty challenges while also moving the ball from side to side quite swiftly. In fact, the lack of width in Longford’s midfield, given their new 4-3-3 formation, was exploited excellently by Martin Russell’s men in the early stages with winger Shane Treacy causing havoc time after time on the left-hand side.
That freedom on the left flank almost bit Longford in the backside soon after the opening goal when the energetic Treacy used his pace and trickery to slide past a number of home players before his vicious left-footed effort sailed narrowly over Paul Skinner’s goal frame.
Tony Cousins lined out his front three with Davy O’Sullivan central with strike partners O’Hanlon and Duffy either side and that trio linked up on eleven minutes to set “Sully” away on goal, although the usually clinical striker soon lost his balance on the greasy “CCS” surface and in turn firing miles wide.
All eyes were on the new faces at City Calling and Lee Duffy was one to really stand out for the ‘Red and Black’ as he finished the night with two assists and some impressive pieces of play. Duffy’s constant off the ball running and pressuring of opposition defenders was a highlight of his play on the night and twenty-minutes in those attributes came to the fore as Duffy disposed a Limerick defender before racing in on goal only to unselfishly tee up O’Sullivan for a two-yard tap-in.
That equaliser put a pep in the Longford step and their front three along with attacking midfielder Kealan Dillon, who would later get his reward, looked likely to catch Limerick on the break at any given moment. However, Shane Treacy continued to terrorise full-back Noel Haverty and eight minutes before the break Treacy would play a direct role in Longford’s down fall. Having been awarded a free-kick over on the opposite side of the park, Treacy came across to offer his set-piece expertise as the winger whipped in a pin point cross to set up trialist Guillermo Torres for the simplest of headers. 2-1 Limerick.
Half-time came and went without the usual pre-season raft of substitutes as the game continued at a respectable pace given the conditions. Just as in the first period, the small band of fans in attendance didn’t have to wait long for a goal as nine minutes into the second forty-five Lee Duffy raced away down the left before cutting inside to unleash a brilliant cross for fellow new boy Kealan Dillon. Although Dillon’s first touch was slightly off the former Athlone man’s persistence paid off as he nipped in with his toe ahead of his marker to turn the ball into the bottom corner and bring his new side level.
That goal almost acted as a signal to both managers to empty the benches as a host of changes were made on both sides. On top of the performances of new boys Duffy and Dillon, the introduction of a large number of youth team players will have brought great satisfaction to “De Town” fans who offered that extra bit of support to local lad Darragh Doherty who slotted in at right back for Noel Haverty with twenty-five minutes to play.
On a night of quality goals, under-19 starlet Karl Chambers almost topped the polls as he saw sub Limerick shot-stopper Holland off his line only for the thirty-yard plus chipped effort to sail narrowly wide. Half chances here and there filled the final quarter of the game with the youthful hosts ending the game as they started, slightly on top. However, this game was merely an exercise in fitness, tactics and confidence building for both managers and they will have left the ground on Wednesday evening extremely content with what they saw and got out of the game.
The only negative to report from this opening pre-season friendly for “De Town” was loan signing Josh O’Hanlon limping off with an apparent knock to his left knee. The AFC Bournemouth man was treated on the bench and Longford fans will be hoping it turns out to be nothing more than a slight tweak for the twenty-one-year-old who has come back to Longford in order to build fitness and confidence after an injury laden spell in England.
Next up for Town is a trip to Dublin as the club face Cabinteely for the first time ever while a local derby against Athlone is next on the cards at City Calling Stadium in just over a fortnights time.
‘Between the Stripes’ Man of the match: Shane Treacy (Limerick) – A player Longford fans would love to see among their own ranks. The Limerick winger was a constant threat with his pace, trickery and bend it like Beckham set piece ability causing him to be the stand out player on a bitterly cold night.
Longford Town: (4-3-3) Skinner, Haverty, Beirne, Rossiter, Powell ©, Hughes, O’Connor, Dillon, Duffy, O’Sullivan, O’Hanlon.
Limerick FC: Freddy Hall, Liam McCartan, Paul Finnegan, Robbie Williams, Shane Tracy, Stephen Kenny, Paul O’Conor, Gavin De Niese, Lee-J Lynch, Chris Mulhall, Guillermo Torres.