Town 19's claim late point on emotional day
It was an emotional day at the City Calling Stadium as Longford Town's under 19's claimed a last-gasp equaliser from the spot against the Cavan/Monaghan football partnership. It's been a tragic week in the Midlands, following the passing of seventeen-year-old Demola Adetosoye, with a number of "De Town's" young stars attending his funeral on the same day as this very match. Manager, Darren McGarry spoke to those of his players affected ahead of the game to make sure they were in the right head-space to play, but their second half-performance was a great credit and tribute to their late friend, as Longford battled back from an early goal to claim a more than deserved share of the spoils.
McGarry will have been disappointed with his sides start to proceedings however, as sloppy passing and poor positioning lead to the away sides opener after just three minutes. Longford gave the ball away carelessly, which resulted in a corner to Cavan/Monaghan on the stand side of the ground. When the ball was delivered, the visitors were initially denied a headed goal by the post but seconds later the ball found its way to Jerome Abekya, who turned it home from inside the six-yard box. A disastrous goal to give away at any time in a game but especially so early on for "De Town".
The hosts should have been level straight from the restart however, when under-17 step-up player Connor Keenan found himself in on goal one v one but his touch was desperately poor as the Cavan/Monaghan 'keeper claimed possession.
The visitors, without a win all-season, now began to settle into the game and got the ball down on a pristine playing surface, which the Cavan/Monaghan FP manager was quick to praise after the game at City Calling Stadium. Darren McGarry's side were also making the most of the Augusta like surface but sloppy passes were killing any sort of momentum Town tried to build.
Keenan will have been frustrated not to have made more of his earlier chance but when he won a brilliant flick-on to Conor Cummins, the winger was harshly adjudged to be in an offside position just as the number seven had cut inside the opposition area. From the resulting free-kick, Cavan/Monaghan broke up field and almost scored a cracker when a looping volley snuck just wide of Adam Kenny's post.
More poor positioning at the back from Longford, this time by full-back Michael Mougan, almost cost McGarry's team dear only for a last ditch intervention to deny the visitors a second on fifteen minutes. There was more last ditch stuff to come seconds later, but this time at the other end as the impressive Josh Sherlock put in a delightful dink to the back post only for a Cavan/Monaghan defender to head away to safety.
If Longford were going to get back into this game it appeared as Sherlock would be the man to do so as he produced a fantastic save from the away 'keeper, who somehow turned the ball away with his toes for a corner! A magnificent save with his feet.
Town 'keeper, Adam Kenny clearly took note as on the half-hour mark he also denied a certain goal with his legs after a free-header inside the hosts area. A wonderful counter-attack from Cavan/Monaghan FP it must be said.
Goalscorer, Abekya was causing "De Town" defenders all sorts of trouble with his pace and control in the final third, and he should have added to his tally soon after but saw his effort cleared off the line with only a blade of grass seperating the ball and the goal-line.
Republic of Ireland under-19's manager, Tom Mohan was in attendance with Town's Aodh Dervin invited to train with the national side last week and he went close to drawing the sides level from eighteen-yards but dragged his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Half-time saw Longford introduce star man, Dan Beya and full-back Sean Bregazzi, who both made huge instant impacts. However, it was Cavan/Monaghan FP who almost doubled their lead soon after the restart when an effort from all of thirty-five yards out thundered against "De Town" bar with the rebound falling to a nearby striker, who somehow saw his follow up saved by Kenny!
Longford knew they could have been out of the game by now so Dan Beya decided it was time to pick up the tempo as he set off on a dazzling run down the left but his end product let him down as the wingers shot went into the side-netting. A sign of things to come from Beya, who's direct running was a joy to watch throughout the second period. The game was now opening up and became stretched with end to end play, and in truth that probably suited Beya.
It was Longford Town's turn to crack the bar next as Conor Keenan spun and created a yard for himself on the edge of the area only for his wonderful effort to come away off the joint of crossbar and post. Town boss, McGarry may look to work on his teams defending from set-pieces before they travel to Finn Park in the league next, as Cavan/Monaghan went close again from a corner on the hour mark.
The woodwork in Longford was being put to work as the hosts again rattled the post on sixty-five minutes as substitute, Bregazzi capatilised on some poor goalkeeping with a wicked left-footed volley only for it to hit the upright!
Jerry Idahor was introduced next by McGarry in an attempt to find that killer touch but like his Longford team-mates, luck was not on the young strikers side on Sunday. Dan Beya showed that, when he headed over in front of an open goal from mere yards away, while the winger then curled an effort over from twenty-yards moments later.
This was now a full on assault from the team in Red and Black but again an absolute sitter was missed, this time by Sherlock who toe-poked the ball wide from inside the six-yard box!
Connor Cummins wasn't having his best day for "De Town" but things took a turn for the best when he won a free-kick on the far side of the ground after a decent run. His delivery was pin-point as it picked out an unmarked Daniel O'Donovan but to the disbelief of everyone in the stadium, he fired over just as Beya had done.
It looked as if the goal simply wasn't going to come for Longford, and they were almost put out of their misery as the clock struck ninety when the visitors broke away but 'keeper Kelly was the hero with a clever save off a lobbed attempt over his head.
That save would turn out to be crucial as in injury-time, Town were awarded a spot-kick for a Cavan/Monaghan FP handball. Cummins stood up to take the penalty and after a lengthy wait over the ball, he converted it in some style to earn Longford a 1-1 draw with virtually the final action of a pulsating second-half.
After the game, Between the Stripes reporter Kieran Burke spoke to Town manager Darren McGarry.
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Between the Stripes man of the match: Dan Beya (Longford Town) - On the fringes of the senior squad at present, Beya showed his class off the benh in the second half and will surely have impressed the on-looking Ireland under-19's boss, Tom Mohan.