Fifth placed Longford Town will be hoping to leapfrog their hosts, Cabinteely on Saturday night as the Midlands outfit go in search of consecutive league wins for the first time since the tail end of 2015. Comprehensive victories over Drogheda United and Derry City saw Tony Cousins Longford retain their Premier Division status that season but a win over fourth-placed “Cabo” is crucial if “De Town” want to harbor hopes of a return to that level under current boss Alan Mathews.
Cabinteely have been somewhat of a surprise package in 2017, with three wins and four draws inside their opening eleven league matches. Having finished seventh last season, an all-time best for the Dublin club who only joined the League of Ireland in 2015, a top-four placing this campaign would represent real progress for Pat Devlin’s charges. Perhaps Cabinteely’s success to date should come as no real surprise though, when you consider the clubs decision to turn semi-pro for the first-time in their history, a move which allowed the experienced Devlin to bring in some real heavyweights in Jason Byrne and in particular Kieran “Marty” Waters. Former Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers winger Waters is one of three players tied on five goals at the top of the First Division scorers charts, and his pace and guile will offer Longford Town some real headaches at the back on Saturday night.
Something else which may give “De Town” an issue at the weekend is the Stradbrook playing surface, much criticised since it’s arrival into the league with “Cabo” in 2015. However, when questioned on the subject post-match in Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday night, Town boss Alan Mathews was quick to play down any relevance the pitch may have on his teams end result come Saturday night.
Despite defeat to Shamrock Rovers in the last-eight of the league cup midweek, Longford should come into this game with confidence under their belt given the promising display against Stephen Bradley’s “Hoops”. An 83rd minute Dean Dillon goal was all that separated part-time Town and the much deeper resourced Rovers on the night and a similarly spirited effort will be need from the visitors if they are to avoid another damaging defeat against Cabinteely this season. Early and late goals from Jack Watson and “Marty” Waters condemned Town to a 2-0 home defeat back in March but with home form finally picking up for Mathews side, an away win here is crucial if Longford are to cut the gap on early leaders Cobh Ramblers at the top of the table.
Cabinteely come into this game off the back of a 1-1 draw away to Wexford, which was still quite a decent result for the South-Dublin side despite the Ferrycarrig based side occupying the bottom of the division, while a scoreless draw at home to Waterford FC the week previous was an even better result, with many tipping the visitors to not only win on the night but to lift the First Division trophy this season. Centre-back pairing Conor Keeley and Victor Enkanem have really caught the eye so far this season with the physical presence of both men bringing a real solidity at the back. Even in the absence of former Longford favorite Enkanem, Evan Galvin has stepped in with ease and is another highly rated youngster in what is a group of players surely set for success in future years.
Former Longford Town captain Daire Doyle is one of the more experienced members of the current “Cabo” squad and he started the game in Wexford, as did the League of Ireland’s second highest goalscorer in history, Jason Byrne. However, it has been the performances of striker Joe Doyle that has peaked the interest of many on-lookers and it would be no surprise at all to see him start either in place or alongside Byrne on Saturday night.
Both sides are suspension free ahead of this weekends game but sadly Longford’s all-time leading goalscorer, David O’Sullivan, who is just twenty-five strikes short of 100 for “De Town”, is ruled out with a groin injury as the club await the results of a scan. Having been rested for the EA Sports Cup game in Tallaght, Enda Curran will be looking to follow up his hat-trick in that now infamous Midlands derby of a week ago, while fit again and fully firing Don Cowan also played a substitutes role mid-week. Despite yet another impressive cup outing, expect the more experienced Paul Skinner to replace Jack Brady in nets, while Aidan Friel and Mark Langtry both impressed hugely mid-week and that may result in Tristan Noak Hoffmann fighting for a starting berth despite his excellent showings of late. Captain Kevin O’Connor watched on from the bench against Rovers and will undoubtedly partner the ever improving Dean Zambra in the middle, while also rested Cody Mulhall can again expect to play wide-left after becoming more and more adapted to the position in recent games. Noel Haverty remains sidelined despite starting some light-training, while Jake Kelly was seen sporting a protective face-mask during Tuesday’s pre-match warm-up so may return after a three-game absence due to a broken nose sustained in training.
PREDICTION: Cabinteely 1-3 Longford Town
STATS AND FACTS
- This will be Longford Town’s first ever visit to Stradbrook as the clubs pre-season meeting in 2016 was played at Wayside Celtic’s ground…..Wayside of course been the former club of David O’Sullivan.
- Cabinteely won the first and only competitive LOI meeting to date between the sides when a 2nd and 92nd minute goal saw them come out 2-0 winners at City Calling Stadium on March 18th, 2017.
- Jack Watson (Cabinteely) scored the first ever competitive goal in a LOI game between the sides.
- Daire Doyle and Victor Enkanem of Cabinteely are both former Longford Town favorites. Defender, Enkanem in fact scored a derby day winner over Athlone in his time with “De Town”.
- Aaron Brilly and John McKeown are two other names to have represented both clubs in recent years. Brilly left troubled Athlone earlier this week, while McKeown has recently departed bottom side Wexford FC.
- A win for Longford on Saturday night would see them move above Cabinteely by two points and potentially cut the gap on leaders Cobh to just five! (Cobh travel to Athlone on Friday night).