LOI19: Longford edge five goal thriller to set up Shels semi-final!
League of Ireland under-19 Shield Quarter-Final
Longford Town 3-2 (AET) Derry City
Report from City Calling Stadium by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS
While the County Championship final taking place just a few minutes down the road from City Calling Stadium is likely to grab most of the locals sporting attention this weekend, it was the League of Ireland under-19 Shield Quarter-Final between Longford Town and Derry City that reserved all the drama, goals and controversy as the sides played out a five goal-thriller at the Strokestown Road venue. Despite plenty of honest play, not so honest play and attacking football on show on, it will be referee Ray Conlon who walks away with the spotlight shone firmly on himself and his teams of officials in a game that had a controversial saved penalty, a comical back pass decision, a freak extra-time sending off and finally, a full on-field brawl at the close of proceedings.
The game started with the young "Candystripes" looking to assert dominance over the football despite being the away side in this winner takes all tie. However, a sloppy passing error across the Derry back four resulted in a Town throw-in high up the pitch just minutes into the first-half but luckily for John Quigley's side nothing came of their unforced error. In fairness to Derry, that error was not in line with the result of their first-half performance as the boys in Red & White stripes dominated for large periods with switch balls out to both flanks a constant theme of Derry's impressive build up play.
As a result of the visitors early dominance, Longford seemed to drop deeper than required and this allowed City to come up with the first scoring opportunity of the game as Miky Friel took advantage of free space on the edge of the area, only for his strong shot to go straight into the hands of goalkeeper, Uli Kelliher.
If that was to be a warning shot to the hosts they certainly didn't heed it as on seven-minutes, Dylan Devine volleyed home a rocket of a shot straight into Kelliher's top right-hand-corner to give Derry a deserved lead. It must be said, Devine showed great technique to control a bouncing ball that was above knee height when he struck it, a wonderful way to open his account on the day.
Kelliher's day was about to get an awful lot worse in nets as shortly after conceding the opening goal the Town 'keeper was booked for handling a loose ball outside of his penalty area. The resulting free kick however, was excellently tipped over by the man who has featured heavily in Neale Fenn's senior squad this season.
Crosses from wide were causing Darren McGarry's Longford team a world of trouble and luckily for "De Town" boss Derry's forward players failed to make more of this weapon when more goals seemed likely from the visitors. However, Longford again failed to learn from their mistakes and on twenty-five-minutes it was 2-0 as Uli Kelliher misjudged a City cross, which Jack Malone to tap in for Derry's second goal.
Just when one could be forgiven for thinking "De Town" might wilt under the pressure, McGarry's side in fact started to enjoy more possession than they had seen inside the entire opening half-an-hour. On thirty-three-minutes, Longford should have found a route back into proceedings but Ruadhan Feeney shot wide when it looked easier to score.
Derry were clearly kicked back into action by that let off and nine-minutes before the break Quigley's team almost had a third but Kieran Farren was just late in arriving round the back on a fine set-piece move.
Now it was Longford's turn to get going again and on forty-three-minutes we saw the first real piece of controversy involving referee Conlon as he failed to produce a clear second yellow card for a Derry defender, who brought Daniel Lucynski down just outside the area as he raced through unopposed on goal. The resulting free-kick was well saved by Derry 'keeper, Dan Houghton.
At the other end, a handling error from Kelliher almost gifted Derry that killer third goal but Longford held on for what would be a defining half-time team-talk.
The second half started at electric pace with chances appearing for both sides in rapid succession. Longford's new found energy was rewarded on fifty-two-minutes as a penalty was awarded to the hosts for handball. However, the spot-kick was saved by Houghton, who may have been a couple of yards off his line in the process (Check out our video below).
Often when teams miss a penalty they can suffer with a lack of belief but Longford continued to grow into the game despite that crucial miss. However, the Red and Blacks good work was almost undone when a poorly defended corner led to another Derry chance but again Longford survived.
Then came the real controversy, as juat shy of the hour mark the referee penalised the away side for a backpass when Houghton had clearly claimed a fantastic clearance by one of his City's team-mates. Paddy O'Sullivan had no interests in feeling sorry for the opposition as the Longford winger placed the ball into the roof on the net to give Town a much needed lifeline.
When Longford's Conor Keenan was caught in possession with thirteen minutes remaining, Derry were offered up a real chance to kill off the Longford resistance but again the "Candystripes" turned down the opportunity. That would come back to haunt Quigley's men as that man O'Sullivan popped up with just sixty-seconds of normal time remaining to send this unbelievable cup tie into extra-time.
If Derry hearts weren't already feeling hard done by they certainly were five minutes into the overtime period as Farren was sent off in the most bizarre of circumstances. Awarded a free-kick inside his own half, Farren appeared to pick up a knock in the process resulting in the Derry youngster taking to the ground. However, referee Ray Conlon felt Farren was milking the clock and produced a second yellow-card to the stricken youngster.
Longford could smell blood now and while it would take some more heart-stopping misses by the side with ten-men, Longford's persistance and never say die attitude would pay dividends on one-hundred-and-seventeen-minutes when Ruadhan Feeney raced onto an over the top pass before sending the ball past the despairing dive of Houghton to break Derry hearts.
Given the nature of the game and the decisions made by the match officials it was always likely emotions may spill over between the two battling sides and when Conlon eventually sounded his full-time whistle this proved to be the case as players from both sides became involved in some unsavory post-match scenes.
However, it is Longford Town who advance to the final four of the shield competition where they will face Shelbourne, who came through a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Bray to set up a mouth watering show down at City Calling Stadium next Sunday.
Between the Stripes Man of the match: Darragh O'Connor (Longford Town) - Brought on from the bench, O'Connor's hold up play and direct passing option gave Longford a new threat in the second half and his presence certainly helped slow down a previously unopposed Derry City back four.
Longford Town: 18. Uli Kelliher (GK), 22. David Dalton, 4. Warren Mitchell, 5. Daniel Ridge, 15. Evan O'Connor, 21. Tumelo Tlou, 19. Lorcan Towey, 8. Ruadhan Feeney (1), 11. Paddy O'Sullivan (2), 20. Abdalaziz ElHagai, 12. Daniel Lucynski. SUBS: 1.Sean Martin, 17. Kristian Crawford, 3. Padraic Joyce, 16. Nickolaj Boroweic, 14. Darragh O'Connor, 10. Conor Keenan, 7. Aaron Mills.
Derry City: 1. Dan Houghton (GK), 2. Jack Park, 3. Ethan Harkin, 15. Ronan Boyce, 6. Jack Malone (1), 7. Kian McGarvey, 8. Conor Gormley, 9. Sean McBride, 10. Evan Tweed, 11. Dyan Devine (1), SUBS: 14. Conor O'Doherty, 16.Miky Friel, 17. Finn McClure
Referee - Ray Conlon
Have you heard Series 2-Episode 28 of Between the Stripes LOI podcast hosted by Kieran Burke & Jonathan Brier yet? This weeks podcast was a Goalkeepers special as Shane Supple, Ger Doherty & Ciaran Gallagher all featured as the exclusive guests. Catch the show below using the Audioboom player, or alternatively, search for Between the Stripes LOI podcast on your favorite podcast platform, such as Itunes, SoundCloud, Spotify & many more.