After six long but rewarding years at the club, it came as a shock to everyone at the end of 2015 when captain Mark Salmon was released by Longford Town FC. Despite guiding the team back to the top flight and helping cement a sixth place finish in their first season in the Premier Division since 2007, “Captain Fantastic”, as he was affectionately known by Town followers, was shown no mercy in a winter clear out by Tony Cousins with 2014 First Division winners Stephen Rice, Paul Hunt and Lorcan Shannon all shown the exit door. Speaking to ‘Between the Stripes’, and in fact any LTFC related media outlet, for the first time since his controversial release, Salmon admitted his surprise at the decision.
“It was a bit of a shock to be honest. I think because I was there so long I was a bit surprised but that’s football. You just have to get on with it.”
Despite his disappointment of not being granted another year at a club where he had notched up almost 200 appearances, Mark Salmon still enjoys a wonderful relationship with the Longford Town faithful and that was evident with the members of “Section O” displaying a “thank you Salmo” banner upon his return to City Calling Stadium with Bray Wanderers earlier this season. When asked about that moment in particular Salmon was quick to point to the glory days he enjoyed at “CCS”.
“Again I think it was because I was there for so long and enjoyed some good times there. Obviously lifting the league trophy was the big one. Also I gave 100% percent in every game, as I always do, and I think fans can see that and react well to that even if results don’t always go your way.”
Salmon will come up against familiar faces again on Friday night as his struggling Bray Wanderers team host rock-bottom Longford Town in a massive relegation six-pointer at the Carlise Grounds. While the clubs are only separated at the foot of the standings on goal difference, with the likes of Wexford and Finn Harps both pulling away from the relegation places at pace, many pundits are labeling this as a relegation decider, even though it is only the final game before the mid-season break. With the July transfer window fast approaching, Town boss Tony Cousins may once again have to make some big recruitment calls if his side are to avoid relegation back to the division they only escaped after seven years in 2014. Speaking of familiar faces, there were a number of exchanges made between the two clubs in the off-season with Mark Salmon and Dean Kelly been shown the door at Longford before signing two-year deals with Bray, while Peter McGlynn went in the other direction. When asked if he felt Tony Cousins had made too many big calls quickly on letting go some experienced players, Salmon refused to pull the trigger o his old boss.
Listen at the end of the year every manager has decisions to make and you have to accept that. I guess you never know till the end of the season.
Going on to give his thoughts on Friday’s impending six-pointer, the Bray Wanderers midfielder refuted claims of it already being a relegation decider as many pundits are claiming it to be even at this early stage.
I think it’s very early to be saying that. Yes it’s a massive game for both sides but if you lose I think it’s a bit much to be saying your going to be relegated. A couple of wins on the bounce and your up to mid table.
Having arrived at the Carlise Grounds with the highest of recommendations from his former employers, Wanderers fans expected a lot from the former Athlone Town midfielder. However, a spite of injuries plus a change in management at the club have seen “Salmo’s” game time limited. Speaking on his disappointment to date and his hopes of a rewarding mid-season break Salmon said:
“I fractured my ankle early on and I’m still carrying it so I’m just looking forward to getting to the break and letting it heal up. I go out to do everything I can to win the game but there’s always something extra playing against your old team.”
While going on to praise the impact of new manager Harry Kenny at the club, Salmon did state his disappointment at things not going the way of the man who brought him to the club, Mick Cooke who was sacked after a woeful start to the campaign.
“Harry has been absolutely brilliant since he’s taken over. He knows the game really well and the lads respect that. We’ve had a tough run of games for him starting out but he’s done really well. It’s never nice seeing a manager losing his job. I enjoyed working with Mick even just for a short period. We were just unlucky with injuries and a couple of decisions didn’t go our way and that was that.”
At Salmon’s old club, an inquest has already begun among some supporters as to “De Town’s” dreadful start to the 2016 season. Rock-bottom going into Friday’s clash, many have already started to question the future of Town boss Cousins should he fail to secure at least a point at the Carlise. The names of Stephen Rice and Mark Salmon have been a constant in the local press as pundits try to figure out the sudden fall in fortunes for last seasons sixth best team. With that in mind, Salmon was asked should Cousins step away from Longford would a return to “CCS” be a possibility, this was his reply:
“When you’re down the bottom of the league there will always be pressure but
at the moment my focus is just on getting Bray up the table. It’s (the club) had its troubles in the past but this year we want for nothing. Anything that is needed the club get it for us straight away. They’ve been brilliant, I have a 2 year deal and I intend to see that out but you never know what will happen in football down the line.”
Tony Cousins is sure to have had his scouts keep close tabs on the “Seagulls” performances over recent weeks and anyone who was present at the UCD Bowl a fortnight ago will never forget the action they saw. 3-0 up after 30 minutes, the County Wicklow side raced back through a ten-minute Ryan Brennan hat-trick to tie up proceedings only to be dumped out of the cup by the odd goal in seven. Salmon came off the bench that night and had the ball in the “Students” net only to see it chalked off by the linesman. When asked about being involved in such a crazy match and if he felt the controversial offside decision had gone against him, Salmon responded:
“I was involved in a pretty crazy game away to Cobh one year alright. 5-3 or something like that but the cup game against UCD was right up there. I wasn’t starting that game and was sitting there thinking what was going on 3 down and then a hat-trick from Ryan in the first 10 mins to make it 3-3 was crazy. In the end we just gave ourselves too much to do but yeah we felt a little hard done by as I feel I was onside but that’s football.”
Asked for his analysis of Friday’s upcoming meeting with Longford, Salmon did not want to give too much away but did state he is expecting an exciting encounter.
“I think it’s going be a good game on Friday. Although both teams are down there we both have some really good attacking players so it should be exciting to watch.”
In pre-season the bookies made Wexford Youths and Finn Harps, the newly promoted sides from the First Division, the hot favorites for an instant return to the Graveyard tier of Irish football. However, Shane Keegan and Ollie Horgan’s men have respectively trailed a blaze through the Premier Division and currently sit comfortably away from the drop zone. When asked if he felt the likes of Bray and Longford had been caught cold by the two new additions to the top flight, Salmon disagreed and had words of praise for Youths and Harps.
“I don’t think so (on being caught off guard). Both sides are there because they deserve it. They have both been building strong teams for quite a while now and they’re reaping the benefits of that.”
Finally, when questioned if he honestly felt the “Seagulls” had enough within the dressing room to stay up this season, Salmon replied in positive fashion.
I think we defiantly have enough to finish higher up the table. We’ve had a bad run and some injuries but hopefully a win Friday night will start us off. We’ve been working really hard on the training ground to put things right so hopefully it clicks for us.