Manager: Neale Fenn
Stadium: City Calling Stadium
Players In: Michael Kelly (Cabinteely), Chris Mulhall (Drogheda United), Jamie Hollywood (Drogheda United), Shane Elworthy (Drogheda United), Andy O’Reilly (UCD), Adam O’Connor (Shelbourne), Evan Galvin (Cabinteely), Darren Meenan (Shamrock Rovers), Dean Byrne (Hardwick FC), Shane O’Connor (Waterford FC), Mick McDonnell (Newbridge Town)
Players Out: Paul Skinner (Drogheda United), Gavin Boyne (Shelbourne), David O’Sullivan (Shelbourne), Paul Finnegan (Larne FC), Aidan Friel (Finn Harps), Rhys Gorman (Bray Wanderers), Jake Kelly (Bray Wanderers), Don Cowan (Retired), Kevin O’Connor (Retired),
Extratime.ie Key Man: Chris Mulhall
Chris Mulhall is no stranger to the First Division and is certainly no stranger to gaining promotion from a league that is a tough slog at the best of times having been promoted with every club he’s played for in the second-tier of Irish football.
Seeming to have the ability to excel in possession-orientated systems, Mulhall looks to be the perfect fit for Neale Fenn as the Londoner looks to deliver the aim that has been handed down from the Longford Town board.
Mulhall’s ability to work hard and endear himself to supporters will be a welcome boost to both supporters and manager alike especially after the departure of Longford Town’s record goal-scorer Davy O’Sullivan to fellow First Division rivals Shelbourne during a long off-season.
Extratime.ie One to Watch: Peter Hopkins
Having joined the club back at the tail-end of July, Peter Hopkins has impressed plenty at the City Calling Stadium so far with his raw pace and his strong instinct to create opportunities out of nothing, as seen with his superbly worked goal against Sligo Rovers back in that famous 4-2 cup upset win over the Bit O’Red back in August.
Having struggled with a recurring injury since bursting onto the scene against Sligo Rovers, Hopkins, 22, will be looking to put those injury struggles behind him with a quick start to life in the 2018 First Division.
The former Sheriff YC man is more than capable of leaving his mark on the First Division and should he be able to stay injury-free, which is easier said than done, the Dubliner will be a thorn in any First Division side’s defence.
How They Did Last Season:
League: It was far from a vintage league campaign at the City Calling Stadium with Longford Town last season as De Town ultimately disappointed many who installed them as early pre-season title favourites with a mid-table 5th place league finish.
After a poor start to the season, Alan Matthews was relieved of his duties which saw Neale Fenn come in and lift the spirits at what was a difficult time for the club.
Fenn, managed to lift spirits somewhat and used some encouraging league showings as a platform to build momentum for what was a decent FAI Cup run to the Quarter-Finals.
FAI Cup: With Longford Town having a very good FAI Cup pedigree in recent years, 2017 was no different as De Town went on a solid FAI Cup run which saw the First Division mid-table outfit reach the Quarter- Finals of the famous old cup competition.
With a mini-revolution brewing in July following the arrival of former Leyton Orient assistant manager Neale Fenn, Town stunned Premier Division side Sligo Rovers at the City Calling Stadium with a well-deserved 4-2 success over Gerard Lyttle’s struggling full-time outfit on Strokestown Road.
Neale Fenn then brought his possession orientated system to Dublin as his Red and Black Army nearly became unstuck away to a very game and physical Bangor Celtic at the Iveagh Grounds but ultimately edged out their Leinster Senior League opponents thanks to a fantastic solo goal by Don Cowan.
However, that was to be Longford’s last win in the FAI Cup, for last year at least, as an efficient Cork City side came to the midlands and disposed of their 2007 FAI Cup final opposition by a score-line of four goals to one despite a spirited second half showing from Neale Fenn’s men.
EA Sports Cup: Coming through in a pulsating 4-3 Midlands El Clasico win over local rivals Athlone at the Athlone Town Stadium, Town were handed a tough assignment in the capital away to Shelbourne at Tolka Park in front of a lowly crowd of 191 as they managed to edge past Owen Heary’s Red’s with a comfortable two-goal victory over in Drumcondra.
However, Longford eventually were stopped in their tracks against Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium thanks to a late Dean Dillon winner which set the Hoops on their way to an EA Sports Cup Final clash at home to Dundalk where Stephen Bradley’s side were swept aside 3-0 in the final after an impressive showing from the Lilywhites.
Leinster Senior Cup: Longford Town’s Leinster Senior Cup campaign was brief as Leinster Senior League opposition Firhouse Clover claimed the spoils over a much changed Red and Black side at IT Tallaght. The game was played only a mere two days following De Town’s opening game of the season which happened to be a nil-nil stalemate away to Owen Heary’s Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
What to expect this season:
Longford Town will come into this season refreshed following a strong showing towards the tail-end of last seasons First Division campaign, whilst more than likely out to prove a point after a dismal start to last seasons campaign.
There has been a marked change in mood around the City Calling Stadium as Neale Fenn has had relative success in attempting to roll out his entertaining possession-orientated style of play at the City Calling Stadium, although patience with his system may be tested with playing surfaces away from the Midlands venue.
2018 will also see the return of Daire Doyle to the club as Neale Fenn’s second-in-command. Doyle, who has just recently retired from the game after a spell with Cabinteely, is a former Longford Town player and returns to the club in the wake of Gary Cronin’s departure at the end of last season.
Going by Neale Fenn’s recent comments at least, expect to see his charges play some of the most entertaining football in the league as De Town will look to blend the right balance of both footballing know-how and technical ability for the season in waiting.
It will be interesting to see how Longford Town adapt to life after the departure of record goal scorer David O’Sullivan to First Division rivals as will seeing how Town’s ex-Drogheda United contingent fare after suffering the sinking feeling of relegation last time out.
With the key re-signings of Daniel O’Reilly, Jack Brady and Karl Chambers alongside the new acquisitions of the experienced duo of Chris Mulhall and Darren Meenan, Longford Town will surely be a force in the race for promotion towards the end of the season.
Longford should more than likely be able to reach the First Division Playoffs especially given that there are three playoff places for those who will agonisingly miss out on the league title, although, saying that, the First Division is likely to be one of the most competitive spectacles in recent memory so expect the race for promotion to go right down to the wire which could potentially see Longford Town coming out on top when it is all said and done.
Title Odds: 9/2
First Game: Home to Cobh Ramblers (24th of February, Kick-Off at 7.30pm)