Thanks for the memories David O’Sullivan

Article by Kieran Burke, stats via Martin Stapleton.

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The iconic David O’Sullivan celebration.

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:

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Via http://www.ltfc.ie

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.

ENDS.

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Between the Stripes daily transfer update 29/11/17

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Owen Heary today increased his “Shels” squad to 14. Photo by @betweenstripes

Article by Kieran Burke.

Starting in the First Division, Shelbourne today continued their impressive squad building mission for the 2018 campaign as three more players put pen to paper on deals at Tolka Park. Re-signing from last year are James Brown and former Longford Town midfielder James O’Brien, while joining the Bray Wanderers exodus is goalkeeper Lee Stacey.

This latest dip into the transfer market by “Shels” manager Owen Heary takes his squad tally to fourteen, the highest in the division so far.

As for last season’s First Division winners, Waterford FC today announced the re-signing of midfielder Gary Comerford. The former Cobh Ramblers man played twenty-five times for the “Blues” last season as they won the First Division and as a result the player had reportedly attracted interest from elsewhere. However, Comerford has opted for another season at the RSC, which yesterday saw the arrival of Shamrock Rovers defender Dave Webster. Alan Reynlods side continue to be linked with the capture of another ex-Rovers man in the shape of much coveted full-back Simon Madden.

In other Munster based transfer activity, Limerick FC today confirmed the signing of Daniel Kearns who had been released by Sligo Rovers just forty-eight-hours earlier. Having caught the eye originally in LOI circles with Dundalk, Kearns earned a move to English football with Peterborough where he enjoyed a decent spell before eventually returning to these shores with Glenavon of the Irish Premiership. Again impressing greatly, much was expected of winger Kearns when he was signed by Sligo Rovers in 2016 but in truth it was far from a successful spell at the Showgrounds as Sligo narrowly avoided the drop just a few weeks ago.

Limerick boss Neil McDonald will be hoping Kearns can rediscover the kind of form that earned him a move to English football which is where our next transfer story takes us. For quite a while now, Limerick FC wonderkid Chiedozie Ogbene has been linked with a move to the English game but today’s story by Buzz.ie will certainly have raised plenty of eyebrows. According to the online publication, Ogbene has impressed Premier League champions Chelsea during a two-week trial with the London club who as a result are now considering a six-figure bid for the twenty-year-old. Buzz.ie also claim the former Cork City youngster has attracted interest from Serie A, meaning it is now extremely unlikely we will see the Nigerian born winger play in the LOI again. (Click here for more details on this story by Buzz.ie).

Rounding off affairs in the Munster region, champions Cork City have this evening confirmed the re-signing of Steven Beattie. Former Sligo man Beattie was a huge part of the “Rebels” double win as the speedy-wide-man filled in at right-back, played on the wing and even up front at times this season for manager John Caulfield. Beattie had been linked with a move to Shamrock Rovers in recent weeks but has now signed a new one-year-deal to keep him on Leeside.

Finally for now, Dundalk FC’s long reported American take-over not only looks set to be complete before Christmas but will now be a 100% full take-over according to Daniel McDonnell’s morning article in the Irish Independent.

Until now it had been believed that current Dundalk owners Paul Brown and Andy Connolly would retain a share of the County Louth club with American equity firm Peak6, who also control 25% of Premier League club Bournemouth, taking up a majority stake. However, it now appears the American’s will take full control at the club with plans for major redevelopment to Oriel Park a corner-stone of the reported takeover.

 

Between the Stripes returns to normal service

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Apologies to followers of Between the Stripes who have been starved of their regular LOI news and updates this past week due to a broadband outage at our HQ here in Longford. We are delighted to say #BTS is now back up and running and ready to bring you all the latest LOI stories once more as the transfer window starts to really heat up ahead of Christmas.

Thank you for your continued support.

Extent of Galway crisis now public following former FA chairman’s explosive resignation letter

Article by Kieran Burke.

For many weeks now there has been rumours of discord between Galway United Football Club and one of its former stakeholders, the Galway United Football Association. Last night this discord became public knowledge thanks to a public resignation letter from the departing Galway FA chairman Ger Gibbons.

In an address sent to all members of the Galway FA, who last week relinquished their interested in Galway United after the LOI side opted to become the latest fully fan owned membership model in the domestic league, Gibbons said:

‘’It is with regret that I have to announce that I am standing down as Chairman of the Galway FA with immediate effect. The main reason that I am doing this is the constant negative attitude towards Galway United. I would nearly go as far as saying that some people on the Galway FA hope that Galway United as a football club would collapse.

When the catering contract came up for renewal, Galway United offered more money than the other bidder, but the lower bid got the contract.

When Galway United inquired last year about putting in a bar in the old dressing rooms in EDP, there was serious opposition to it, but practically no opposition to renting out upstairs for 3 years, which I agree with, as you have to get a reasonable length of time to recover your outlay on renovations

The contract I signed with Galway United for the bar on behalf of the committee was for one year at a reduced fee, so that Galway United could recoup some of the €10,000 they spent renovating the old dressing rooms. The fee for the next season was up for discussion at around the end of this year, but an email was sent to Galway United telling them to remove all their stuff from the bar area and to restore it to its original condition. This in my opinion was not what was agreed earlier this year.

The decision to restore the dressing rooms was seemingly taken by some members of the football committee and other people who are not on the Galway FA and without consultation with the full committee of the Galway FA, so that this new academy could use them. Why would we need this when we have the finest dressing rooms in the League of Ireland?
The academy, I agree is the right thing to do, but it should be in conjunction with Galway United, who despite comments on social media did make contact with a member of the Galway FA about running this jointly, but was told that he would discuss with the committee and get back to him. When he did get back to Galway United he said the committee were not interested.

I am not sure what committee did discuss this, but it was not the full committee. Also the academy was seemingly launched last weekend and the first I knew of it was when I saw the picture on Facebook of all the coaches in EDP. Not sure who knew about the launch but I as chairman definitely didn’t
Finally, work started this week on the removal of the bar and I do not know who gave that instruction to remove it.

So, after 10 years on the GFA and 2 years as chairman, that’s it folks. All I ever wanted from my involvement with the GFA was to improve things in Galway football. We succeeded for a while but things seem to be going back to the old ways… fighting and bickering and the only ones that suffer are the people that are the most important, the PLAYERS.
Yours in sport,
Ger Gibbons.’’

Gibbons scathing criticism of the Galway FA committee comes just weeks after United were forced to issue a plea asking season ticket holders to leave their passes behind for the final game of the season against Dundalk and instead pay in at the gate if at all possible. This led to many LOI fans asking why a club that had received a sizeable transfer fee for star defender Lee Grace from Shamrock Rovers only recently were now in financial jeopardy. As a result, rumours of unfavourable lease agreements regarding Eamon Deacy Park, which is owned by the Galway FA and rented to United, began to emerge. Gibbons letter, which was made public on Reddit, seems to back up those claims which will surely lead to a backlash for those currently on the Galway FA board.

In truth, this bombshell has been a long time coming and the allegations made by Gibbons are not likely to surprise many within LOI circles. Having re-entered the LOI as recently as 2014 following the collapse of the old Galway United, Galway FC as it was initially branded was a make up of the old Galway supporters trust, the Galway FA and junior sides Salthill Devon and Mervue United.

Part of the agreement which saw the ‘’Tribesmen’’ re-established through this partnership was that the LOI club could not field underage sides. Many saw this as a way of appeasing the local junior clubs, Salthill and Mervue in particular who had of course given up their own LOI status at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

Casting thoughts back to earlier this season, the decision by the Galway FA to fine United for what was described as ‘’excessive damage and wear on Eamonn Deacy Park’s pitch due to fans incursion’’ will surely now be looked upon as sinister by both supporters of the club and LOI fans alike. This €100 fine was brought against the club following a 3-1 at home to Limerick FC on July 7th 2017 when young children approached Galway players for photographs at the conclusion of the match. At the time it was celebrated by LOI fans as a great marketing tool and way of creating a link between the club and its community of younger fans.

However, United soon made public the fact the club had been fined by the Galway FA, who receive €650 per game for the use of Eamonn Deacy Park from GUFC. While the bill was picked up by a local bar, the decision to fine the LOI club drew great ridicule among supporters on social media.

With the news of United’s new ownership model being celebrated by the LOI community earlier this week combined with the hugely successful LOI dash fundraiser by supporters, who raised just shy of €20,000 for the club by playing a short match at all twenty LOI grounds in the space of 24 hours, these are encouraging times for GUFC despite their recent relegation to the First Division. However, with the clubs home ground still under the ownership of the Galway FA, it remains to be seen how this public spat will play out with many followers of the domestic game now asking for intervention from the Football Association of Ireland.

With off-field crisis currently being endured at a number of LOI clubs, this is far from a good public image for the leagues governing body, who are yet to announce a new structure for the First Division, which Galway United will participate in come February.

Between the Stripes has offered the Galway FA an opportunity to comment on Ger Gibbons’s resignation letter and will update this article if response is made.

ENDS.

St.Johnstone boss all but confirms McMillan transfer

Article by Kieran Burke.

Dundalk striker David McMillan looks to have played his last game for the 2017 cup runners-up after St.Johnstone manager Tommy Wright all but confirmed a transfer to the Scottish top-flight club this morning.

Speaking to Dundee based newspaper The Courier, Wright had this to say on his potential new signing:

‘’He’s (McMillan) a goal-scorer first and foremost but he’s a very good all-round player.’’

Wright also revealed he has been tracking the progress of former UCD man McMillan for sometime now.

‘’I’ve known about him for a few years. He can play with his back to goals, makes runs in-behind and finishes with his left foot, right foot and head. He’s scored lots of goals in the Irish league and he’s been excellent for Dundalk in Europe.’’

The St.Johnstone boss certainly holds McMillan in high regard and has hopes the twenty-eight-year-old can replicate his Oriel Park form in Scotland.

‘’He’s 28 and very experienced, I’m sure he will be a good addition to the squad here. Primarily I look at the goals he’s scored there (Dundalk) and I think he can replicate that here.’’

With some media outlets reporting that Galway United striker Ronan Murray is all but a stroke of a pen away from signing for Stephen Kenny’s ‘’Lilywhites’’ many will now begin to speculate that the talented youngster is the replacement for this seasons golden boot runner up McMillan.

In yesterday’s Irish Sun the County Louth club were also being linked with a move for the First Divisions top marksmen of last season, Georgie Kelly. With the UCD striker currently on a college scholarship at the Dublin club it may prove a challenge to lure Kelly away although Dundalk obviously hold the advantage over other rivals such as Derry City, who are also linked with the player, in regards their close links with Dundalk Institute of technology.

With David McMillan out of contract at present, Dundalk FC will not benefit from a transfer fee for their star striker.

Between the Stripes daily transfer update 22/11/17

Article by Kieran Burke.

It has been a day dominated by Simon Madden’s shock departure from Shamrock Rovers but just down the road, St.Patrick’s Athletic have begun their squad building for 2018.

Joining the ‘’Saints’’ from troubled Bray Wanderers is midfielder Ryan Brennan while putting pen to paper on contract extensions at Richmond Park are Ian Bermingham, Graham Kelly and Conan Byrne.

Interestingly, Bray Wanderers are now the only Premier Division club yet to announce any squad members old or new for next season with the County Wicklow side also without a manager at present, following the resignation of Harry Kenny off the back of a turbulent year off the pitch at Bray.

With an FAI investigation into alleged betting irregularities involving Wanderers still unresolved, this is an uncertain time for followers of the ‘’Seagulls’’ who have almost become accustomed to off-field uncertainty over the off-season in recent years.

  • Elsewhere today, Dundalk and Derry City are expected to battle it out for the signature of First Division golden-boot winner Georgie Kelly of UCD.

Shock as star-man Madden released by Rovers

Article by Kieran Burke.

Shamrock Rovers supporters far and wide have expressed their shock on social media this Wednesday morning following the surprise news that long-serving defender Simon Madden is to be released.

There had of course been speculation earlier this off-season that Madden may be used in a swap deal for the much sought after Dundalk defender Sean Gannon. However, with Gannon signing a new three-year-deal with the ‘’Lilywhites’’ any expectations of a Madden departure soon vanished.

Making 194 appearances across two spells with the ‘’Hoops’’, Madden is regarded as many as one of the best full-backs in the LOI while also bringing extreme leadership qualities to what is a young Shamrock Rovers dressing room.

In an extremely brief statement published on the Shamrock Rovers official website it was stated:

‘’Shamrock Rovers today announce that the contract of full back Simon Madden will not be renewed for 2018.

The club would like to thank Simon for his time at the club where he made 194 appearances during two spells and we wish Simon well in his footballing future.’’

With Madden’s former club Derry City suffering a talent drain in recent weeks, speculation will be ripe of a Brandywell return for the man who served the ‘’Candystripes’’ so well from 2012-2013.