Alan Mathews will take control of his first home game as Longford Town manager since being appointed to the job for the second time. The former Cork City boss was in charge for the first time away to his former employers last Friday night and despite conceding five goals in a 5-2 defeat, there were some positives to take from the RTE live game at Turners Cross.
A fantastic pre-season to date for Longford has hit its first bumps in the road this week with two big injury issues to report from “De Town” camp. Last weekend’s training camp and subsequent friendly victory away to Cobh Ramblers left Tony Cousins side in fine fettle for the remainder of pre-season with only three games left before the opening day trip to Wexford on March 4th. However, news broke prior to Saturday’s derby with Athlone that Rhys Gorman had suffered a serious injury in training and that fact was confirmed to those in attendance at City Calling Stadium this weekend as the sight of young defender Gorman hobbling on crutches sank the hearts of Longford followers. A fractured ankle the untimely and unwanted outcome for Gorman, who was voted as the club’s young player of the year last season, and it is now expected the former Shamrock Rovers man will miss at least the opening four weeks of the new season.
Given the small crowd at Saturday’s home tie with Athlone, which ended in a 3-1 triumph for Tony Cousins Longford, it would have been easy for the absence of striker Lee Duffy to go unnoticed. However, ‘Between the Stripes’ can officially confirm the new arrival from Drogheda United will also miss the opening month of the 2016 campaign, which sees Longford take on the likes of St.Pat’s, Finn Harps and Bray in the early stages. Duffy, who had made a great start to life in the Midlands with two assists against Limerick and a goal versus Cobh has suffered ligament damage, leaving him out for between four and six weeks.
Given Tony Cousins emphasis on using a new 4-3-3 formation in pre-season, the injury to Duffy is sure to have left a dent in the clubs attacking options with only Kaleem Simon, a scorer against Athlone, left as the only other forward with senior experience. However, with every cloud comes a silver lining and the promising performances of Karl Chambers should see the former under-19 striker gain some extra game time in the opening stages of the campaign.
It is now expected that Chambers and Simon will battle it out for the final forward position vacated by Duffy and they will have another opportunity to press home their credentials to Tony Cousins on Tuesday, as Longford host Galway United in an all Premier Division pre-season clash. It was interesting to note in the final quarter of Saturday’s win over Athlone that for the first time in pre-season so far, Longford shifted to a 4-4-2 formation and that option may now be more prominent than it previously was in Tony Cousins mind given the injury to Lee Duffy. Only time will tell and the trip to Waterford next weekend will offer the former Galway boss one final chance to tweak his tactics and personal ahead of the all-important big kick-off versus newly promoted Wexford.
NEW LOOK LONGFORD SET TO EXCITE IN 2016
While there can be no denying Longford Town’s success over recent seasons with the triumphant 2014 league winning season being followed up by a top six finish in the top flight last year, critics have pointed to a lack of exciting football on display throughout Tony Cousins six plus year tenure. Continue reading
Despite pre-season still being in it’s infancy, Longford Town FC and Limerick served up some decent fair at the City Calling Stadium on a bitterly cold and damp Wednesday night. Continue reading
With Longford Town FC’s first pre-season game just around the corner, the first team squad for the forthcoming 2016 SSE Airtricity League season has finally been announced. With no further signings expected before the big kick-off on March 4th, “De Town” look set to operate with just a twenty-two-man squad. That number is a slight reduction on recent years where twenty-three to twenty-five man squads were the norm under Tony Cousins. So who are the new faces to watch out for over the next month or so of pre-season and what do they bring to the club?
The paths of Longford Town FC and Lee Duffy have always seemed to find a way to cross in recent years. For it was the Midlands club that Duffy made his league of Ireland debut against in the First Division for Shelbourne. That 2014 season saw heartbreak for the striker as Longford went on to claim the title and promotion to the top flight despite giving ”Shels” a massive twelve point lead. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Duffy however, as his impressive performances for the ”Reds” earned him a move to Drogheda United. Albeit only a Leinster senior cup tie, his debut would come against none other than ”De Town” in a game where the Midlanders once again came from behind prior to knocking out the Louth side via penalties.
Once again it was a disappointing team year for Duffy as his Drogheda United side were relegated to the First Division, having taken some heavy beatings along the way. Two of the key defeats that helped sealed the ”Drogs” fate were thumping 3-0 triumphs for Tony Cousins men at United Park. Just as in his season with Shelbourne though, Duffy impressed on a personal basis as he notched up 7 goals in 22 appearances which was enough to raise Tony Cousins interest and sign the young striker.
Having faced ”De Town” so many times in just a short League of Ireland career, ‘Between the Stripes ‘ asked Duffy what he made of the Longford teams he had faced:
”Longford are well organised under Tony and are a hard working team. I’m delighted to be on board I can’t wait to get going.”
While Town fans will be delighted to hear of Duffy’s enthusiasm regarding his big move, many have questioned the logic of signing two players from a relegated side and whether or not the arrivals of Duffy and Mark Hughes from the ”Drogs” can really improve the current side. When asked if lessons had been learned from last seasons relegation with Drogheda, Duffy responded with what he feels is key for the 2016 campaign if Longford want to avoid a similar finish:
”One thing I’ve learned from the relegation experience is to keep my head up and to know I can come back even stronger and better.”
He went on to speak extremely highly of former team-mate and fellow new signing Mark Hughes.
”I was delighted when I found out Mark was signing he’s a great player. Mark is a box to box midfielder, he’s a hard working player and can find a pass from anywhere on the pitch, we link up very well…He’s definitely one to keep an eye on for the coming season.”
Questions remain over where Duffy will fit in to Tony Cousins plans with the arrival of Josh O’Hanlon on loan from Bournemouth, while all-time leading goal scorer Davy O’Sullivan must surely still be seen as the teams go to man given his end of season form and overall goals record at ”CCS”. When asked as to where he sees his best performances coming from, Duffy was quick to point out his preference for a lone strikers role.
” I see myself fitting in better as a lone striker. I like playing up top on my own as I feel as if I’ve more space for myself. I don’t mine playing off a partner as well, it’s always a plus when I have somebody up top with me.”
Duffy was quick to also point out he has set himself a high goals target for the forthcoming season.
” I set myself a goal target every season and my target this season is 15 goals!”
Accommodating O’Hanlon, O’Sullivan and Duffy may prove to be a major challenge for manager Tony Cousins in 2016 and with no hints yet as to what way the boss may set out his side in the opening game away to Wexford, ‘Between the Stripes’ asked Duffy if he was worried about not having a guaranteed starting place as in seasons gone by.
”No I’m not worried, I’ll just work hard to get myself in the starting 11 every week.”
A physical and hustling centre-forward, Duffy has the attributes to become a big hit with ”De Town” faithful who may remember handing out some stick from the stands in United Park to Duffy over his ‘interesting’ hair style last seasons. The striker wrapped things up in a jovial mood as he joked:
” I’ll surprise Section O on the 4th of March with my hair style.”
Having received an interesting tweet from a Longford Town supporter the other evening which stated ”De Town” are the 3rd highest ranked outsiders to win the league, with only Wexford Youths and Finn Harps listed at larger odds, the question of squad strength and transfer dealings jumped to mind.