After spending Friday evening in Limerick I headed back to Dublin in order to catch a train to Longford.
As the crow flies, Longford is about 100 miles north of Limerick but for the fast train connections it meant returning to Dublin before heading to the county town.
The journey back to the capital gave a small insight into the standing of domestic league soccer in Ireland. Whilst most soccer clubs struggle to get four figures, the train was rammed with GAA supporters as over 34,000 people headed to Thurles for two hurling quarter finals.
Longford Town were founded in 1924 but it wasn't until 60 years later, in 1984, the club joined the League of Ireland. They finished bottom of the league in their debut season and were relegated into the newly formed League of Ireland Division One. The club spent the next 15 seasons in the second tier but in 2000, with current Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny at the helm, the club returned to the top flight of Irish football.
This was the catalyst for cup success over the next few years when the club reached both domestic cup finals in 2003 and 2004. In 2003 they lost the League Cup to 1-0 to St Patricks Athletic before beating the same team 2-0 in the FAI Cup Final. They then claimed both trophies in 2004, beating Bohemians 2-1 in the League Cup Final and beating Waterford United 2-1 to lift the FAI Cup. Incidentally, talking of Bohemians, that is after whom Longford adopted their Black and Red coloured shirts.
Longford Town's home ground is a few of miles out of town on Strokestown Road, alongside the main N5 road. For sponsorship purposes the ground is currently known as Bishopsgate. The stadium was inaugurated in 1994 and redeveloped in 2001, with the completion of the 1,400 capacity main stand.
As much as I was tempted to, I decided against walking from the town centre due to the proximity of the main road, and the lack of a pavement in certain parts. I played it safe by taking a taxi to the ground. A random stranger sorted one out for me, which was great as the clock was ticking past 7pm. The taxi driver that turned up was a Manchester City fan so, naturally, he was still quite pleased as punch after pipping those loveable neighbours of Everton to the Premier League title! Coincidentally, another groundhopper was in the crowd and they were a City fan heading back to Manchester after the game. They very kindly dropped me off back in town afterwards. Apparently this made me a "lucky, lucky bleeder" according to a mate of mine. The luck of the Irish rubbing off on me, perhaps?
I arrived at the ground with loads of time to spare. Cork City were the visitors tonight, knowing that a victory would put them top of the table. However it was the homesters who started the brightest and had the best of the early possession. De Town's Sam Verdon hit the upright early on but it was somewhat against the run of play that Cork took the lead, and what a stunning goal it was too. Cian Baragary cut in from the left hand side and let fly from just outside the area, the ball curling past Luke Dennison in the Longford goal.
Longford still kept pressing and created good chances but the equaliser just would not come. Verdon had an effort cleared off the line and Cristian Magerusan fluffed a golden opportunity. With 5 minutes remaining, the goal that Longford thoroughly deserved finally arrived when Karl Chambers headed home a corner to ensure the game finished all square. A really good watch and I thought the standard of football was better than the previous night's game in Limerick.
It was good to be back in Ireland once again and I thoroughly enjoyed my few days over the water. Sláinte!
Here endeth season 2021/22 for me. Thanks for popping by and taking a look at my pictures and scribblings. All being well, I'll be back in August. Until then, have a great summer and enjoy the sunshine! 🌞