LONGFORD TOWN V ATHLONE TOWN – Saturday, 20th Feb – City Calling Stadium, 3:00PM KO.
It was on, it was off and now finally it’s on again. Nothing could get in the way of the first and perhaps only Midlands derby of the season taking place , as Athlone Town get set to play the first of two matches on Saturday at the City Calling Stadium. Longford boss Tony Cousins was obviously keen for his side not to lose out on another opportunity of a run out ahead of their opening league game away to Wexford Youths, who incidentally are the second opposition of the day for Athlone in a Leinster Senior Cup tie in Lissywoolen at 7-30PM. However, it remains unclear as of yet what sort of squad Alan Mathews will send to face his former employers, although former Longford striker Daryl Carrigy has tweeted to say he is listed in both Athlone squads for Saturday.
Should the First Division outfit send a full strength squad for the “Clasico” who can home fans expect to look out for? Daniel Purdy is likely to take the brunt of the “CCS” faithful having re-signed for another season with Longford’s great rivals while Alan Mathews has worked extremely hard to bring in seven new players, which as mentioned includes Longford local Daryl Carrigy. The former Derby County youth only transferred to Athlone a couple of weeks ago and having been told by Tony Cousins the door is open for a return should he develop steadily in the First Division, Carrigy will be out to prove a point to his former boss. Elsewhere, the arrival of Conor Barry from Premier Division side Galway United is a positive one for Athlone followers as is the recapture of the pacey Marco Chindea. You may have spotted online earlier this week the fundraising efforts of life-long Athlone fan Joe Cassidy, who is going house to house in the Town looking for one Euro from every household which will then be donated to the football club. It has been a tough time financially for the once giants of Irish football and as a result four of Alan Mathews signings are little known names from non-league football. Having lost the likes of Philly Gorman to former manager Roddy Collins at Waterford, the majority of pundits are tipping Athlone for little more than a wooden spoon scrap in the second tier this season and Longford will be confident of extending their unbeaten pre-season run so far on Saturday afternoon.
Tony Cousins charges come into this local derby fresh off the back of a thumping 4-0 win away to Cobh Ramblers last weekend, and with no fresh injury concerns to report from that game and the training camp which went before it, Cousins will be delighted with preparations for the new campaign at present. On loan AFC Bournemouth striker Josh O’Hanlon was the star of the show at St.Colman’s Park on Saturday and Longford fans will be licking their lips thinking of what the twenty-one-year-old can achieve at the City Calling Stadium this season. O’Hanlon has struggled with injuries in the past, and did limp out of the opening friendly game against Limerick, so should he come through back to back games unscathed and firing on all cylinders it will be a huge boost to the coaching staff at Longford. This pre-season campaign has seen Town boss Cousins opt for an exciting 4-3-3 formation but having conceded three goals I the opening two games against Limerick and Cabinteely respectively, some supporters were concerned “De Town” may be too open with those tactics this season. However, a clean sheet away to Cobh last weekend will have been just as sweet as the four goals scored for the Longford coaching staff and should ‘keepers Skinner and Morris be able to shut out Athlone this weekend it would equate to a major boost in confidence for the Premier Division side.
Prior to the training camp in County Cork, questions were being raised online by Longford fans regarding Don Cowan’s situation with the club and while still not clarified officially, it appears the American born forward is still in Tony Cousins plans after being pictured with the rest of the squad. One can only assume Cowan must prove his fitness to the club before being officially announced as re-signed to the 2016 squad. In other injury news it’s pretty much more of the same as centre-back Pat Flynn continues to build his fitness levels ahead of a possible return on the opening day of the season, with no other issues to report ahead of Saturday’s 3PM kick-off.
Following the game at “CCS”, Longford will then focus on Tuesday’s trip to Eamon Deacy Park for an all Premier Division clash with Galway United prior to a final pre-season game against Roddy Collins Waterford. Tony Cousins is also sure to have eyes in the stand when Athlone host Wexford this weekend in the Leinster Senior Cup. The Youths came out on top against the Irish university’s during the week and Tony Cousins will be keen for there to be no surprises come the trip to Ferrycarrig on Friday, March 4TH.