First Division league leaders Longford Town made a very tame exit from the FAI Cup when they crashed to a shock defeat against Leinster Senior League side Cherry Orchard at Frank Cooke Park in Dublin on Sunday last.
The magic of the FAI Cup was alive and well as Cherry Orchard recorded their first ever victory over a League of Ireland side in the competition. There were joyous scenes afterwards and it showed how much the win meant to the Ballyfermot club.
The hazy days of a few years ago when the Town were ‘the’ cup team are now well and truly gone as they limped out of a competition they once held in very high regard. It was a poor performance from a side who are flying high in the league.
Longford had their chances, especially in the second half, but squandered them. Full credit to Cherry Orchard who took their chances when they came their way. It was a laboured display from the Town and there were several players who just weren’t up for this game and just didn’t seem to care. That was a real let-down to the small band of loyal supporters who travelled up to Dublin for the game.
Although there was a few changes to the starting line-up it was a strong Town side who took to the field. A few players missed out through injuries and they are now doubts for the massive league game at home to Limerick on Saturday. What was evident on Sunday last is that Town lack a real goalscorer and poacher. Their leading goalscorer is right-back Noel Haverty and Daniel Purdy is the only forward who has scored more than one goal this season.
Cherry Orchard were up for this game right from the off and Town were given an early warning of what to expect when Lee Collins forced a fine save out of Town keeper Craig Hyland in the 8th minute. Four minutes later and down the other end Austin Skelly had a glorious chance to put the Town in front when a free-kick from Keith Gillespie was curled into the box but unlucky for Skelly his header went wide.
Michael Lee had a chance three minutes later but his effort went over the bar. The Town were to rue not making the most of their chances when Cherry Orchard broke the deadlock in the 24th minute. The visitors defence were all over the place and failed to clear the danger as Philip Sheppard pounced to beat Hyland with a neat finish.
Longford were dealt another blow minutes later when Skelly went off injured and his strong presence was sorely missed up front. In the 33rd minute Thomas Crawley brought a good save out of Cherry Orchard keeper Sean Brazil. Then two minutes later Jamie Duffy fluffed an excellent opportunity to put the Town back on level terms.
After being out of the game for the latter stages of the first half Cherry Orchard broke away in the 39th minute when Sheppard made a burst down the wing but unfortunately for him no team-mate was in the box when he crossed the ball. Then Former Town player Paddy Collins put in a well-timed tackle on Mark Salmon in the 43rd minute as the Town tried to level matters before the break.
The second half was dominated by the Town but try as they might they just could not put away any of the chances they created. In the 52nd minute Jamie Duffy headed over a Michael Lee cross and Duffy was unlucky minutes later when his effort hit the post after a cross from the lively Thomas Crawley.
It was all Longford as they tried to get back into the game. In the 59th minute it was Des Hope’s turn to see his effort go wide; heading over a Keith Gillespie corner. Crawley was a real livewire on the wing but although his delivery was near perfect the finishing by his team-mates left a lot to be desired.
In the 67th minute Daniel Purdy brought an excellent save out of the opposing keeper Sean Brazil. The ball rarely went into Longford Town’s half but Cherry Orchard were waiting for their chance to break and in the 76th minute that’s what happened. The Town defenders stood off and Alan Caul let fly with a wonderful shot that beat Hyland.
Minutes later Cherry Orchard were denied a penalty when Des Hope handled Dennis Moran’s shot. The Town just gave up after conceding the second goal and the non-league side were content in keeping possession in holding out for a famous win.
CHERRY ORCHARD: Sean Brazil; David O’Sullivan, Paddy Collins, Wayne Byrne, Daniel Ennis; Alan Caul, Dennis Moran, Ian McNeil, Lee Collins; Philip Sheppard, Mark Hughes.
Subs:- Patrick Byrne for Caul (83 mins); Brian Rooney for Hughes (89 mins).
LONGFORD TOWN: Craig Hyland; Graham Dowling, Jeff Flood, Des Hope, Thomas Crawley; Colm James, Keith Gillespie, Mark Salmon, Michael Lee; Jamie Duffy, Austin Skelly.
Subs:- Daniel Purdy for A Skelly (injured 27 mins); Sean Skelly for Gillespie (80 mins); Craig Walsh for Dowling (88 mins).
Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).