Club: Longford Town
Manager: Neale Fenn
Stadium: City Calling Stadium
Highest attendance this season: 575 vs Cobh Ramblers (24th of February 2018)
Highest league goalscorer: Chris Mulhall (7)
Mid-season position: 4th
How we thought they would do
There was a genuine feeling before the start of the season that Longford Town were title contenders before a ball was even kicked at the City Calling Stadium. Neale Fenn, alongside his newly-appointed assistant Daire Doyle, assembled a quality squad with a mix of experience and youth as the likes of Chris Mulhall and Darren Meenan joined up with the Red and Black. With that quality and experience on show, it was no surprise that many considered De Town as legitimate contenders for the title.
How they really have done
After struggling to find consistency in the early part of the season, Fenn looks to have finally found the right formula of winning matches, while simultaneously playing attractive football. With only one defeat in their last eight league games, De Town look primed for an end of season assault for the title as they hunt down the pacesetters UCD at the top of the pile. Saying that, reinforcements are needed up front especially, which would significantly aid Longford’s hopes to realise their ambitions.
Moment of the season so far
It seemed for a while that Longford’s season was slipping away from them, but that fear was put right to bed after the morale-boosting 4-2 success up in Ballybofey against Finn Harps. After succumbing to a bitter defeat during a bruising encounter against Harps at home, Longford went on the long drive up north to Donegal as they sought to write the wrongs of that heart-breaking defeat at Finn Park. Goals from Aodh Dervin and Dylan McGlade put De Town two up before the half time whistle, but they were soon pegged back in the second half as Harps hit back in a whirlwind four-minute spell early on. However, Sam Verdon instantly restored Town’s lead just seconds after Michael Place’s equaliser in the 57th minute, and Dylan McGlade put the seal on the result for Fenn’s young guns in the 81st minute with a well taken goal from a counter attack.
Star Player: Daniel O’Reilly
After failing to make the grade at Fulham in West London, Daniel O’Reilly has certainly enjoyed a renaissance in his fledgling career at Longford Town. O’Reilly has been at the forefront of a quite impressive defence at Longford so far this season as the Kildare native constantly looks to play the ball out from the back while also sticking to his defensive responsibilities. It is not just that which sets the 23-year-old apart from the rest, he has also come up with a knack of scoring big, big goals for the Red and Black, as seen with his EA Sports Cup winner against Shamrock Rovers in April.
Surprise star player: Dean Byrne
Not much was expected from Dean Byrne after joining from AUL side Hardwicke, but the Dubliner has won over his doubters in a hugely impressive opening few months in the Red and Black. His explosive pace and eye for goal has seen Byrne establish himself as one of Neale Fenn’s key attacking outlets during the first half of the season at the City Calling Stadium. However, in a cruel twist of fate, the Dubliner will more than likely have to sit out the rest of the season after he picked up a nasty injury in the defeat to Cabinteely just a few weeks back. The will be a big blow for Fenn and his backroom team, but given the sense of sense of camaraderie and character in the Longford Town squad, they will do their utmost to plough ahead without their dynamic attacking star.
Young player: Aodh Dervin
In a First Division exploding with a talented blend of youth and quality, Aodh Dervin has raised plenty of eyebrows this season with plenty of energetic and determined showings in the Longford Town engine room. Being from Longford, Dervin certainly knows what the club means to the people of Longford and he has shown that with an incredible drive and commitment over his first half of the season. It is telling to see what is lacking in the Longford Town side when he is omitted from the matchday squad which emphasises his importance to the side.
Star signing: Dylan McGlade
After a brief stint in England with Blyth Spartans, Dylan McGlade has really stepped up his game on his return to the City Calling Stadium after a spell in England plagued by misfortune and difficulties. Joining late last season, after waiting for his international clearance, McGlade has made 13 appearances for Longford Town while also scoring five goals during his second spell in the Midlands. The former Middlesbrough youth team prodigy will be expected to continue his already sterling efforts with De Town should he help Neale Fenn’s charges to land that highly sought-after return to Premier Division football come the end of play during the Autumn months.
What they need to do in the transfer market
Sign a natural goalscorer. It seems fairly simple for Fenn in terms of this summers transfer market. Should he manage to grab a hold of a real natural goal-scorer you would certainly look at De Town as genuine title contenders come August/September. Chris Mulhall has failed to take over the mantle from Shelbourne’s lethal finisher David O’Sullivan, so it appears as if the Midlanders should prioritise a striker as a matter of urgency in order to gobble up the great chances being produced for the front men by a creative and inspirational midfield.
Where we see them finishing
The title is surely in reach but the real question to that lies in which whether or not UCD will falter over the summer months. Should the title prove to be a bridge too far, the playoffs are a very realistic proposition, without doubt.