(Waterford win 3-1 on aggregate)
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg at Flancare Park the previous week, Longford Town travelled to the RSC on Friday night last in the hope that they could somehow overturn that deficit and advance to the promotion/relegation play-off with Dundalk but an early Waterford United goal put paid to that.
Having to attack from the off, Longford were going to be caught on the break and that’s what happened in the 9th minute when Waterford got the crucial first goal, leaving Longford with a huge uphill battle.
Now 3-0 down on aggregate and having failed to score a solitary goal in their previous three games the writing was on the wall even at that early stage. Longford’s last goal came in the clash against SD Galway at the end of September; Alan Kirby was on target that night and it was also him that got the Town consolation goal in Waterford on Friday last.
It was a final swansong for Kirby who announced that he was retiring after that game. Another player who looks likely to have played his final League of Ireland game is Austin Skelly. The Dubliner has been dogged with back trouble this year and is considering hanging up his boots.
Serious changes need to be made at Longford Town next season. This season they promised so much but failed in the end. Manager Tony Cousins will lament about injuries and suspensions (which did play their part) and the fact that they created so many chances but didn’t put them away. It was evident early in the season that the Town did not have a proven goalscorer but that wasn’t acquired during the July transfer window. They also let a decent lead at the top slip by dropping points against teams they should be beating.
Too many times over the season the Town put in below par performances and on Friday night it was just the same. There was no passion, heart or commitment. It was like some of the players were going through the motions and looking forward to the break from football.
Longford started well and were hoping to get the early goal that would have made a game of it but instead that came for the home side. After Longford had forced their sixth corner, Waterford launched a counter-attack with Peter Keegan playing the ball to Sean Maguire who went dashing down the wing. Maguire’s powerful shot was saved by Town keeper Craig Hyland but the loose ball broke to Peter Higgins and he made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
Waterford had a chance to double their advantage in the 21st minute. Gary Dempsey played the ball out wide to Paul Phelan and he went down to the endline before firing in a cross that was headed over the bar by the inrushing Dempsey.
After making a lively start Longford just couldn’t create any chances and their passing at times was sloppy. In the 37th minute defender Willo McDonagh had a great chance but his header was deflected out for another corner. Two minutes later and Noel Haverty really should have done better with his effort that was easily gathered by Waterford keeper Packie Holden.
One minute into the second half Waterford had a glorious opportunity to get their second goal; Keegan with the cross which was amazingly blasted over the bar by Phelan when it was easier to score than miss.
In the 50th minute Waterford were reduced to 10 men when Seamus Long was sent-off for a tackle on Austin Skelly. From the resulting free-kick Daniel Purdy ballooned the ball way over the bar in a wasted opportunity.
Longford had other chances but no efforts were on target. In the 62nd minute Karl Bermingham was fouled by David Breen but instead of awarding Longford a free-kick in a dangerous position the referee booked Bermingham for diving.
In the 69th minute Thomas Crawley put in a perfect cross from the left but Tony Griffiths glaringly missed the target. Minutes later Bermingham had a chance but his shot didn’t really trouble Holden. That was Longford’s night; they just didn’t do enough to make the Waterford keeper work despite getting the chances.
Gary Dempsey’s curling free-kick for the home side just went inches wide in the 83rd minute and two minutes from time Waterford defender John Frost put in a well-timed tackle on Griffiths to force the ball out for a corner.
In the 90th minute Longford Town finally gave their loyal supporters something to cheer about. Haverty with the cross which was deflected off Bermingham into the path of Kirby and he made no mistake from close range. It was a fitting farewell to football for the popular Waterford native.
But the goal though was too little, too late and the play-off setback leaves Longford Town stuck in the First Division for another season.
WATERFORD UNITED: Packie Holden, Stephen Mulcahy, Craig Burns, David Breen, John Frost, Peter Higgins, Gary Dempsey, Peter White, Paul Phelan, Sean Maguire, Peter Keegan.
Subs:- Seamus Long for Mulcahy (injured, 11mins); Ben Ryan for White (70 mins); Jack Doherty for Phelan (90 + 3 mins).
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland, Noel Haverty, Willo McDonagh, Des Hope, Michael Lee, Keith Gillespie, Mark Salmon, Robert Bayly, Thomas Crawley, Austin Skelly, Daniel Purdy.
Subs:- Karl Bermingham for Purdy (58 mins); Alan Kirby for Gillespie (68 mins); Tony Griffiths for Skelly (68 mins).
Referee: Keith Callanan (Cork).