2019 Season Preview: Longford Town

Wed, Feb 20 2019

City Calling Stadium Credit: Steve Alfred (ETPhotos)

Manager: Neale Fenn

Stadium: City Calling Stadium

2019 Players in: Aaron Dobbs (Shamrock Rovers), Paul O’Conor (Bray Wanderers), Lee Steacey (Shelbourne), Joe Manley (St Patrick’s Athletic), Kevin Knight (Cabinteely), Anto Breslin (Wolves), Adam Evans (Shelbourne), Karl Fitzsimons (Dundalk), Sean Brennan (on loan from Southampton), Conor Kenna (Bray Wanderers), Jack Menton (Cabinteely). 

2019 Players out: Daniel O’Reilly (Finn Harps), Sam Verdon (Finn Harps), Dylan McGlade (Bray Wanderers), Michael Kelly (Unattached), Darren Meenan (Athlone Town), Cian Byrne (Athlone Town), Jackson Ryan (Unattached), Ben Kelly (Unattached), Dean Dillon (returning to Shamrock Rovers after loan spell) 

Extratime.ie Key Man: Paul O’Conor

A First Division winner with Limerick FC in 2015, Paul O’Conor will be hoping to achieve promotion once more from the second tier with Longford Town in 2019. 

Signing from Bray after relegation from the Premier Division, O’Conor’s signature is a major acquisition for Neale Fenn and his backroom team as they look to add that all-important steel in the midfield engine room at the City Calling Stadium.   

Once of UCD, St Patrick’s Athletic, Sligo Rovers and Drogheda United, the 31-year-old midfielder is likely to partner Aodh Dervin in a Longford Town midfield exploding with talent and quality. 

While it is yet to be seen as to what plans Fenn has for O’Conor just yet, his addition to De Town’s ranks is a shrewd signing, both on and off the pitch at the City Calling Stadium.

Extratime.ie One to Watch: Anto Breslin

Fresh from a stint across the water with now Premier League side Wolves, Anto Breslin has more than enough potential to flourish in the First Division with Longford Town. 

After training with the squad at the tail end of last season, Fenn made it his priority to snap up the former Shamrock Rovers trialist during the off-season and achieve that he has. 

With a fierce left foot, Breslin has already turned a few heads with his pre-season performances on the left wing, a weapon that will no doubt be used by De Town this year as they search for a return to the Premier Division at the third time of asking. 

Despite having no senior league experience to his name, the former Republic of Ireland Underage International could prove to be one of the finds of the season in the First Division. 

How they did last season:

League: 5thplace

Flirting with a Playoff position all season long, Longford Town just about missed out on a berth in the Playoffs by a narrow margin to fourth placed Drogheda United. 

Extratime.ie’s staff predictions correctly noted De Town’s fifth place finish however many will feel as if it was an opportunity missed for Neale Fenn’s side. 

Injuries and a general inconsistency eventually weathered the Midlander’s promotion tilt, but Fenn will take confidence from his side’s character shown at the end of the season with such key losses for the side. 

FAI Cup: Quarter-Final

For the second year in a row, Longford Town reached the Quarter-Final of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup before crashing out to Cork City, coincidentally, for the third year in a row.  

Longford stunned Premier Division Sligo in the opening round thanks to a bizarre Jamie Hollywood winner before seeing past the challenge of fierce First Division rivals Shelbourne in the second round. 

The win over Shels sealed a date on the television with Cork City but it was to be a harrowing night at the office for De Town as they fell to a 7-0 defeat to the Leesiders. 

EA Sports Cup: Quarter-Final

Longford fared similarly in the EA Sports Cup where they also reached the Quarter-Finals stage before eventually bowing out to finalists Cobh Ramblers a St Colman’s Park. 

After sensationally swatting aside Shamrock Rovers in the second round, Longford, who received a bye to the second stage of the competition, struggled to deal with a re-invigorated Cobh Ramblers in May. 

The game eventually saw the Rams come through as 2-0 winners with Darren Murphy and Andrew Wall both scoring on a tiring night for De Town who had just played Cobh away three days previous.  

What to expect this season:

It is difficult to predict where Longford Town will finish come the end of play this year in the First Division. 

Shelbourne have obviously invested quite heavily in their ranks with the signings of Conan Byrne and Ciaran Kilduff raising eyebrows at Tolka Park. 

In addition, Bray have also signed well during the off-season, Paul Keegan and Dylan McGlade, formerly of Longford Town, raising expectations for a good year at the Carlisle Grounds. 

The departures of Daniel O’Reilly, Michael Kelly and Sam Verdon will also be a blow to Longford’s chances, but Fenn has brought in some very capable replacements. 

Conor Kenna has joined bringing much experience, Lee Steacey comes in from Shelbourne while Aaron Dobbs will be a quality acquisition to the ranks. 

Aodh Dervin will undoubtedly play a key role in the middle of the park along with Paul O’Conor, Dean Zambra, Jamie Hollywood and Sean Brennan. 

Tireless winger Karl Chambers will also look to continue his fine form in a Longford Town jersey along with Shane Elworthy who will be hoping to link up well with the Tallaght native on the right-flank.

There is a quiet confidence in the Longford Town squad that they can compete with Shelbourne for top spot and in truth, there is no reason as to why they cannot go for the league title. 

A Playoff spot will probably suffice this year at the City Calling Stadium but in terms of an outside bet for the title, Longford may very well be worth a punt. 

Title Odds:16/1

First game: Limerick FC (A) – February 22nd