The third U-19 El Classico of the season took place on Saturday last in Flancare Park and the game was what you would expect from any local derby. The first five minutes saw both teams size each other up but the home side began to attack their neighbours and on 8 minutes following an Athlone corner Longford broke out on a counter attack and were unlucky not to open the scoring when Paul Kennedy shot narrowly wide.
After this early attack on goal it was obvious that the home side, despite being bottom of the table, were not going to just sit back and allow the team that were still unbeaten in the league have it all their own way. And with only 10 minutes on the clock Longford took the lead to shock the table toppers when Ryan Carberry swung in a corner that was headed on by Michael James and Kennedy volleyed home.
From here on the Longford side were constant in their attacks and the Athlone keeper saved well from Kennedy, Alex Kenny and Ryan Carberry. In the 20th minute Athlone began to come into the game and underage international player Jordan Conroy was unlucky to see his shot across goal go narrowly past the far post.
This was to spark both teams into what was to become a rip roaring local derby. Athlone had two great chances to equalise, while Ryan Carberry and Kenny for the home side could have stretched the lead further. Ryan Carberry, in particular, was having a good game and as the game entered first half injury time he saw a free-kick hit the top of the crossbar and go over.
The last action of the half was to be an Athlone attack and as their No.10 ran into the box he appealed that he had been fouled but despite his protests the referee rightly waved play on as there appeared to be no contact made between the players. This brought the half to an end and it was the home side that went in leading and frustrating their visitors.
With just five minutes gone in the second half controversy was to erupt when Longford keeper David McNamara made a great save with his feet but for a reason only known to the referee Athlone were awarded a penalty which was slotted home by Ian Sweeney.
After this the game at times began to become farcical with the referee making a number of decisions that were blatantly incorrect and resulted in both teams becoming increasingly annoyed. On 55 minutes Athlone’s Conroy let his frustration get the better of him and was sent-off for making an obscene gesture to his own fans. The linesman who witnessed the act reported it to the referee who had no choice but to send the player off.
On the hour mark Longford’s Aaron Brilly hit a superb shot from the edge of the box that was wonderfully pushed around the post by the visitor’s keeper but the referee unbelievably singled for a goal kick.
Both teams pushed hard throughout the second half to find a winner and Athlone with only ten men on the pitch were defending well to thwart the strong Longford attacks. But Athlone grabbed a late winner in the 88th minute that keeps them top of the table going into the Christmas break.
The ball was crossed into the crowded Longford box where it hit one of the defenders on the shoulder and the unsighted referee without consulting with his linesman awarded the visitors their second controversial penalty that was slotted home past McNamara again by Sweeney, which understandably devastated the home side.
At the final whistle the Longford side were visibly shocked at how at least a draw had been taken from them. They now have a few weeks to get ready for their next competitive game which is away to Mervue United in early January.
The players and management of the Longford Town U-19 team have asked me to pass on their thanks to everybody for their support so far this season and to wish everybody a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
LONGFORD TOWN: David McNamara, Dean Cosgrave, Brian McNamara, David Mackey, Ruairi Carberry, Aaron Brilly (c), Michael James, Ryan Carberry, Kieran McNamara, Alex Kenny, Paul Kennedy.
Subs: Mark Rossiter for Kenny (55 mins), Steven Boateng for James (80 mins).
Not used: Cormac Kennedy, Sean Duarte, Padraig Gallagher, Paul Rushe.
ATHLONE TOWN: Brian Redmond, Michael Monaghan, Rory Morris, Warren Conroy, Conor Marlowe, Rory Connor, Ian Sweeney, Rory King, Jordan Conroy, Eoin McCormack, Darren Donnelly, David Brookes, Stephan Conneely, Itris Oyenimi, Terry Byrne, Andrew O’Sullivan, Jamie Coyne.