"Why can't we win the league" says new Longford keeper Lee Steacy
Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS
It’s been a tough off season to date for Longford Town FC, finishing just outside the First Division play-off places last term, many had hoped manager Neale Fenn would be able to build on the core group of players he has assembled over the course of his season and a half with the Midlands club in order to mount a serious tilt at the title next season. However, just over two months after ‘’De Town’’ played out their final league game of the 2018 campaign at home to champions UCD, Fenn has already found himself losing out on the services of goalkeeper Mick Kelly, star center half Daniel O‘ Reilly and goal scoring midfielder Sam Verdon. However, on Saturday afternoon, ahead of Longford Town FC’s annual end of season awards night, there was some positive news for followers of the Red & Black to discuss over dinner as Longford announced the additions of Shelbourne shot-stopper, Lee Steacy and former Wolverhampton Wanderers full back, Anto Breslin.
Having narrowly missed out on perhaps the leagues hottest free-agent in Conan Byrne to red-hot titles favorites for 2019, Shelbourne, Longford boss Fenn is sure to be delighted with the arrival of talented goalkeeper Steacy at the City Calling Stadium. Losing fans favorite Jack Brady to Limerick in the summer before Kelly’s shock announcement of an impending move to English football, Fenn’s search for a new number one was not only an unexpected one but a decision of great importance for ‘’De Town’s’’ promotion chances going forward, and the general feeling among the fan-base is that the manger has signed something of a gem in Steacy.
On the books of ‘’Shels’’ last season, Steacy has often had to play second fiddle to more experienced keepers’ in the League of Ireland during his career, which began at Shamrock Rovers before moves to Bohemains, Bray Wanderers and Shelbourne.
Speaking exclusively to Betweenthestripes.ie reporter Kieran Burke, Steacy stated the opportunity for first team football was a huge driving factor in his decision to join Neale Fenn’s Longford Town team.
“I played with Shamrock Rovers first with Stephen Kenny for a couple of months, I I just turned 18 in the middle of a strong campaign with Rovers under-19’s but I didn’t really get any luck. The first game I wasn’t on the bench starting keeper’ Oscar Jansonn was sent off after 5 minutes and that could’ve been a big opportunity for me.”
“I made a decision in the middle of last season that I was going to be a number one next year and that was it. I’ve always played well when I’ve come in, so I’m looking forward to seeing how much better I can do with some consistency and regular games.”
With Steacy’s former club, Shelbourne, many peoples tip to win the First Division next season, some have questioned the twenty-five-year-old’s decision to walk away from the Drumcondra club, despite the fact League of Ireland veteran Dean Delaney is expected to once again hold the number one jersey at Tolka Park next season. Steacy explained his decision to move on at this point in time while also revealing a close personal relationship with the legendary Delaney.
“Dean (Delaney) and myself have worked closely for 3 seasons and I’ve learned a lot from him. He knows I’m ready and throughout the year he told me I have to be playing and he’s right. I’ve always believed in my ability and back myself all the time. Anywhere I have played regularly I’ve won cups or personal accolades!”
“I see a lot of talk online about “Shels” being favorites, they definitely have added quality and no doubt will be right up there along with ourselves. It’s going to be a really strong division again, last year was brilliant and it will be even better this time around I think.”
“I had a great year with “Shels”, there’s a buzz about the club for the first time in a long time but not at all do I question my decision to leave, I have to be selfish. Longford are a great club and I’m really excited to become a huge part of it!”
The Longford goalkeeping position has been something of a revolving door in recent years with the likes of Chris Bennion, Paul Hunt, Paul Skinner and Jack Brady all being deemed surplus to requirements by both former and present management teams. Former Tottenham Hotspur younger, Neale Fenn has made it clear ever since his arrival at the 2014 First Division winners that he expects his keepers to be able to demonstrate a strong ability on the ball as well as in their shot-stopping role. When asked if the Town boss had discussed this with Steacy before signing, the former Bray Wanderers goalkeeper commented:
“When Neale (Fenn) and I first met he complimented me regarding the ball at my feet, he was very happy with that aspect of my game. Shot stopping has always been a natural strength of mine but as the game has developed I’ve worked on other areas too and I’ve really worked hard to get myself to the level I’m at now, so Neale’s style of play suits me perfect. I can play with my feet and pick players out and that’s one of the reasons he signed me. When I played all the cup games with “Shels” last year our second team played some lovely football and it starts from the back. I love playing out so I can’t wait to start training and buying into the system.”
Despite a lack of game time in recent years, Steacy has tasted the sweet success of lifting silverware in recent seasons, thanks to Leinster Senior Cup victories at both Bray Wanderers and “Shels”, who have won the competition the last two campaigns running. Steacy was in fact a penalty shoot-out hero in this years final against local rivals St.Pat’s and that is an experience Steacy wants to use to his advantage in the coming years.
“I’m a big game player, I played in two finals in the season gone by and won both of them, one with the college and the other with “Shels”. I live for these moments and I played a huge part in both finals and got man of the match in one, as I said I feel I can add to any team.”
“If players have belief in their goalkeeper it spurs them on and my character alone plays a huge part in any team. It doesn’t happen by chance though, I’m always the first one on the training ground and last to leave. I work really hard so it makes it sweeter when you get rewards and I’ve no doubt with Longford we can do great things next season. I can’t wait to be a big part of Longford Town and help bring the team on.”
From simply sitting down and talking to Lee Steacy, it is almost immediately clear that confidence is certainly not an issue for this young goalkeeper, despite the task at hand in filling the gloves of the hugely successful Mick Kelly, who became a bit of a fan favorite following some cup heroics against Sligo Rovers and ironically Shelbourne last season. Rounding off our discussion in equally enthusiastic and ambitious fashion as it had begun, Steacy delivered the following battle cry to fans of his new side:
“For the club, I am aiming to win the league. Aim as high as possible, you have to be ambitious and realistic. UCD won the league playing a nice brand of football, why can’t Longford ? I was very impressed with Longford last season. I’m hoping to help add some consistency to the club and hopefully that will bring us a bit closer. A good start is vital and I’m really looking forward to meeting up with the lads and start building towards our goal!”
“My personal goal for the coming season is to play with a level of consistency and establish myself as a top goalkeeper in this country. I genuinely believe if I play 10 games in a row people will know exactly who I am then. I live for football so I just can’t wait to get out there and try be the best footballer I can be.”