Article by Kieran Burke, stats via Martin Stapleton.
After five seasons containing 82 goals, one league title and countless individual honors, David O’Sullivan announced his departure from Longford Town FC last night. Leaving the 2014 First Division winners as the clubs all-time leading goal-scorer and as one of the biggest fan favorites ever at the City Calling Stadium, O’Sullivan’s status as a club legend is assured forevermore.
Arriving at the First Division outfit in 2013 under Tony Cousins, O’Sullivan was an unknown quantity to Town supporters as the striker signed from non-league Wayside Celtic. Despite not scoring in any of “De Town’s” six pre-season matches, O’Sullivan’s pace in behind and Velcro-like first touch was there for all to see during the preparation for that 2013 campaign. Impressing his new boss enough to earn a starting role for the opening league game of the season away to Salthill Devon, O’Sullivan hit the ground running with a debut hat-trick as Longford ran out hugely impressive 5-0 winners on opening night.
Given O’Sullivan’s pedigree with the Irish international side at amateur level prior to his arrival in the LOI with Longford, perhaps supporters should not have been surprised that their new centre-forward was proving to be a big hit in the First Division. However, it’s safe to say nobody, probably including David O’Sullivan himself, could have foreseen the success the Arklow man would enjoy during his debut season with the club as the then twenty-five-year-old bagged twenty-one league goals from just twenty-eight games.
As a result of this incredible goals tally, Longford earned themselves a shot at promotion as the 2013 season reached its climax with a promotion/relegation play-off against Bray Wanderers. Despite coming up short in one of the greatest and most dramatic play-off series ever to take place in any league, the first leg at the Carlise Grounds in Bray is where many will associate O’Sullivan’s best and most iconic moment ever in a Longford Town shirt with. Trailing 2-0 to an experienced Wanderers side that contained star names such as Jason Byrne, Gary Dempsey and Kieran “Marty” Waters, O’Sullivan popped up with a pulsating late volley to equalise in front of an estimated 400 away fans who simply put went absolutely wild. As mentioned above, O’Sullivan’s efforts would not be enough for promotion in the end as a stunning yet controversial Kevin O’Connor goal in the return leg saw Pat Devlin’s side hang on to their top-flight status by the skin of their teeth in front of a heart-broken “CCS” crowd.
Ironically, the arrival of O’Connor at Longford the following season would prove to be a major boost to O’Sullivan’s chances of going one better in 2014, although nobody was expecting the number fifteen to match his goals haul from the previous campaign. However, match the tally he did as O’Sullivan once again recorded twenty-one league goals in twenty-eight First Division encounters but this time Tony Cousins men lifted the First Division title at the conclusion of the season. O’Sullivan’s decision to stay with Longford for 2014, despite a hugely attractive offer from Bohemians, had come up trumps as not only did the Wicklow man claim a league medal and back to back PFAI recognition but the striker broke the clubs long standing goals record, previously held by Richie Parsons.
With promotion in the bag and a new contract almost instantly agreed upon, hopes were high that O’Sullivan would become one of the top strikers in the elite division of Irish football. However, despite a sixth placed finish, O’Sullivan only managed to register seven-times in that 2015 campaign, which also saw “De Town” reach the semi-finals of the FAI cup for the first time in eight-years. Despite playing in thirty-league games during a successful first year back in the big time, O’Sullivan seemed to be deployed in a wider role than had been seen the previous two seasons under Tony Cousins, who favored an extremely direct approach to games with target man Gary Shaw playing alongside O’Sullivan. While the duo known as the “SOS” had formed a hugely successful partnership on route to the title a year previous, many Longford fans felt Cousins style of play did not suit O’Sullivan’s game as he came up against cleverer defenders in the Premier Divisions.
Cracks were starting to appear at Longford and the 2016 season was where it would all unravel for long time boss Tony Cousins, as a twenty-three game winless streak eventually convinced the stubborn Dubliner to give the reigns over. Legendary manager Alan Mathews arrived in hope of an unlikely revival but in truth it was never on as “De Town’s” short spell back in the top-flight ended in humiliation. Despite enduring another difficult season in the Premier Division, O’Sullivan managed to finish as the clubs highest goal-scorer for a fourth-year in succession with a tally of eight goals in thirty-one league appearances. For a man who many feel did not deliver his best performances or anywhere like them over the course of those two campaigns to still return fifteen top-flight goals is a testament to not only O’Sullivan’s goal-scoring ability but his professionalism and determination to always give maximum effort even when things were going against him.
O’Sullivan’s natural fitness almost led to a sense of invincibility from his adoring fans who had barely seen the striker miss a game through injury or suspension during his four years with the club. However, season number five is sadly where O’Sullivan would finally encounter an injury crisis as he missed a large chunk of what proved to ultimately be a disappointing campaign for the club back in the First Division. Staying on from the tail end of last season, Alan Mathews was the man charged with returning the glory days to Longford Town and the bookies certainly gave him a chance of doing so as Town were installed as pre-season favorites for promotion. However, Mathews marquee signings failed to live up to the hype as Longford found themselves in the dreadful position of not been able to score enough goals while being well able to ship them at the other end.
One side the Midlanders could find a winning formula for under Mathews however, was local rivals Athlone Town as O’Sullivan bagged a famous derby day hat-trick in Lissywoolen on March 10th, 2017. Incredibly, and perhaps fittingly given it would prove to be the lethal strikers last season with Longford, O’Sullivan would go on to record three trebles against the old enemy in 2017 to elevate his legendary status to even higher acclaim among the Longford faithful. In thanks largely to his derby day heroics, O’Sullivan again fittingly finished the season in double-figures and for the fifth and final time the clubs top goal-scorer. Thirteen goals from just twenty appearances in all competitions, O’Sullivan bows out with an astonishing record breaking eighty-two goals from 160 appearances, six hat-tricks, two PFAI team of the year appearances, a PFAI player of the year award in 2014 and no less than four Longford Town player of the month awards which begs the question if we shall ever see the likes against at “CCS”?
Eager to leave the final word with the man himself, this was O’Sullivan’s goodbye message posted on social media last night:
The entire team at Between the Stripes want to take this opportunity to thank David O’Sullivan for his hard work, dedication, passion, loyalty and incredible goal-scoring service to Longford Town Football Club over the past five seasons. “Sully” as he will always be known in Longford, was always helpful and willing to offer his time to speak to the Between the Stripes team and we will always cherish the memories created like that night in Bray or when he scored in the 5-0 win over Shamrock Rovers “B” at a packed out “CCS” to secure the clubs first ever national league title. Best of luck in whatever the future may bring “Sully”……Record breaker – History maker.