Shaw should be number one target for Fenn

Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS

Gary Shaw in action for Longford Town during his three-season stint with the Midlands club (2013-2015).

Gary Shaw in action for Longford Town during his three-season stint with the Midlands club (2013-2015).

After spending three-seasons at Shamrock Rovers, striker Gary Shaw this morning announced his time at the Tallaght Stadium has come to an end. Signing for the “Hoops” in December 2015, Shaw went on to score six-times in twenty-six appearances under Pat Fenlon’s watch and earned his first European minutes in the tie against Finnish side RoPS. Even after Fenlon’s departure during the 2016 season, Shaw remained a fans favorite at the Dublin giants but in recent seasons injuries and a lack of game time have seen the former First Division winner with Longford Town become less prominent in the Rovers set-up. With the likes of Daniel Carr and Aaron Greene now ahead of Shaw in Stephen Bradley’s pecking order, it has come as no great surprise to see Shaw announce his departure on social media this Sunday morning.

Speculation of interest from Drogheda United had already surfaced in the days leading up to Shaw’s official announcement and with the County Louth club last night announcing that their manager Tim Clancy is to remain with the club for 2019, despite an approach from First Division rivals Shelbourne, the “Drogs” are now clear to start their off-season recruitment after missing out narrowly on promotion this term.

It’s not difficult to see why Clancy may be interested in the services of Shaw. Not a prolific goal-scorer, Shaw’s ability to bring team-mates into play and cause mayhem inside the opposition penalty area through his strong physical presence and tight ball control played a vital role in Longford’s promotion to the top-flight in 2014. And with that in mind, supporters of the Midlands club will this morning surely be pondering the potential of a Shaw return to the City Calling Stadium for next season.

Similarly to Drogheda, Longford fell just short of their promotion goal this season as Neale Fenn’s youthful Town side ran out of steam towards the conclusion of the league campaign, missing out on the final play-off place to none other than Drogheda. Many followers of the “Red and Black” believe it was that lack of experience and winning know how that cost “De Town” in the final weeks of the season and with Shaw coming out of three-years inside a full-time set-up, the Newbridge native could only bring positives to the Longford dressing room.

The number nine position was a huge area of concern for Longford boss Fenn throughout the 2017 campaign. Signing Chris Mulhall from relegated Drogheda in the off-season, hopes were high for a player that had shone in an otherwise struggling outfit. However, it was quite clear early on in the year that Mulhall was not up to scratch fitness wise and he eventually “retired” half-way through the season. Talented youngster, Dean Byrne looked to fill Mulhall’s boots and could have been the answer to Longford’s problems until a season ending injury struck him down, while fellow youthful front-man Jackson Ryan struggled to break into the first-team despite much promise. Such unfortunate circumstances resulted in Fenn moving midfielder, Sam Verdon into the strikers role and again this appeared to be the answer to Longford fans prayers until Verdon too suffered a serious injury. Another dip into the murky waters of the transfer market was now Fenn’s only option and to be fair Jamie Doyle and Dean Dillon both contributed when called upon, following their respective arrivals from Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers.

However, there was always a feeling that “De Town” looked a little bit thread bare in forward areas as the season grew on and on occasion when Doyle struggled to break down opposition back fours there was little option for reinforcements on Fenn’s substitutes bench. With Dillon and Doyle returning a combined total of five goals in twenty-one appearances (11 apps-3 goals for Dillon, 10 apps-2 goals for Doyle) there is a hope among the Town fan-base that both will return in the Red and Black stripes of Longford next season. And while 32 goals in 129 Longford Town appearances for Gary Shaw may not exactly jump off the screen at you, there are no official stats for just how many goals and opportunities the former Bray Wanderers forward created in his four-seasons with the club. Shaw’s incredible partnership with, current Shelbourne front-man, Davy O’Sullivan was a corner stone to the clubs success under Tony Cousins and there is no doubt that if paired with the right kind of player again, Shaw could reek havoc in a division that relies on the success of a consistent striker.

Whether Neale Fenn and the clubs hierarchy can convince a player that has enjoyed playing at the highest level and in a full-time environment over the past three-seasons to consider a return to a part-time First Division set-up remains to be seen. However, if Longford Town are aspiring to compete at a similar level in seasons to come then they should at the very least be in what is likely to be a long queue for the services of an ultimate professional.

Gary Shaw looks set to be one of a number of expected departures from the Tallaght Stadium this winter. Stephen Bradley’s battle to catch Dundalk and Cork City for 2019 was discussed in depth on this weeks Between the Stripes LOI podcast. Catch our latest episode, Series 2-Episode 29 with guests Tommy Barrett, John O’Sullivan & Aidan Campbell, using the Audioboom player below. Alternatively, you can find Between the Stripes LOI podcast on virtually all podcast platforms, such as Itunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, TuneIn, Podcast Republic and many more!