Defenders Mick McDonnell and Daniel O'Reilly pictured in action for Longford Town against Athlone Town in the Airtricity League First Division game at City Calling Stadium last Saturday. Pic:Syl Healy
Longford Town get a break from league action this weekend when they travel to the Showgrounds on Saturday to play Premier Division side Sligo Rovers in what could turn out to be a cracking encounter in the first round of the FAI Cup, kick-off 7.45pm.
Sligo may have been struggling recently in the Premier Division but they had a great victory last weekend when they travelled to the Brandywell and came away with a very good 2-1 victory over Derry City who are in the top half of the table.
The two Sligo goals came from David Cawley in the 70th minute and former Finn Harps player, substitute Caolan McAleer who scored the all important winner in the 79th minute.
That result pushes Sligo five points ahead of Limerick who are in the relegation play-off spot at the bottom of the table but it also puts Rovers just two points behind Bohemians and they have a game in hand on their Dublin rivals.
Sligo, under manager Gerard Lyttle who came from managing in the Northern League, have performed well since he joined the club last year. When the team were struggling last season Lyttle was brought in as his predecessor Dave Robertson lost his job over poor results. As we all know football is all about results and Dave paid the price.
When the Town played Sligo in the FAI Cup at City Calling Stadium last season, they were second from bottom of the table. The Longford team that played Sligo on that occasion featured Peter Hopkins and Sam Verdon who had only joined the club in the July transfer window.
Six of the starting eleven for the Town are still with the club, while the Sligo team that played on that occasion had only three playing in Derry last week and one on the bench. Regan Donelon, Kyle McFadden, and Rhys McCabe started the game and Raff Cretaro came off the bench in the 75th minute.
The Town supporters enjoyed a great night of football at City Calling Stadium this time last year when Neale Fenn had his first big win with the club with an extra time 4-2 victory over Sligo.
The Town were in great spirits after this victory and they were on the road in the next round of the Cup when they travelled to Dublin to play Bangor Celtic.
Hopefully history will continue this year and the Town can take Sligo's scalp again, as back in the late 60s the Town beat Sligo at the Longford Dog Track when the club were playing in the Leinster Senior League.
There is no doubt that manager Lyttle will have his players fired up for this game especially after beating Derry on Friday night last at the Brandywell, although they suffered the disappointment of losing to the same opposition in the EA Sports Cup semi-final on Monday last.
There are many new faces in the Sligo team compared to last season with a new keeper Michael Beeney who has come from England while Patrick McClean (brother of James) has joined the club from Waterford.
Michael Drennan played in the league with Shamrock Rovers and he will be a tough player to watch as is his strike partner Lewis Morrison.
David Cawley, along with Lee J Lynch and Rhys McCabe, are a formidable midfield unit and they have lots of experience on the bench. Raff Cretaro, who had a testimonial recently, is a great man to get a goal out of a half chance.
Caolan McAleer proved that he is good for a goal when he was introduced against Derry on Friday last. There is no doubt that the current Sligo squad has many talented players but hopefully their minds may be on Premier Division survival rather than the FAI Cup.
The Sligo club have won 5 FAI Cups and some of their successes were in recent years but Neale Fenn did the job against them last year and hopefully another upset may be on the cards .
The good news for Neale Fenn was the return from injury of Peter Hopkins who was brought on in the 3-0 win over Athlone in the league last weekend. Dean Zambra was also introduced in the second half and he had a steadying influence in the midfield sector.
Jamie Doyle missed the game through suspension for his red card against Shelbourne and could possibly miss two more games.
This is a relatively young Town team at the moment but they have lots of enthusiasm and they could cause another major upset in the Showgrounds. A large crowd is expected to travel and we want everyone to get behind the lads for the cup clash against Sligo Rovers.