Cobh Ramblers shocked promotion chasing Longford on Monday with a hard fought draw at St Colman’s Park. The visitors pressed Cobh throughout but the Ramblers defence stood strong and held on for a well-earned point.
There were three changes from the Cobh side that lost 4-0 to Waterford. Shane Hallahan replaced Robert Birdsall in goal. Martin Deady and Roy Kenny returned from suspension and injury respectively in place of Chris McCarthy and Jonathan Spillane.
It was Longford who started the better of the sides but the first half didn’t create any clear-cut chances. Gary Shaw and Sean Russell went close early on but they failed to beat Shane Hallahan in the Cobh goal. The in-form David O’ Sullivan headed just over midway through the half. The Rams’ first real chance came to Rob Waters but he shot straight at ‘Town keeper Paul Hunt after some good passing in the Longford half. The visitors’ best chance of the half fell to Russell when he was gifted the ball after some sloppy defending. His effort was very poor though and easily saved by the feet of Hallahan to the dismay of the travelling supporters. Ramblers then started to come into the game more. Bobbi Donoghue looked impressive on the right hand side and put some teasing crosses into the box but Longford dealt with the danger. Gary Shaw almost gave his side the lead near the end of the half. A superb ball by Etanda Nkololo beat the defence and Shaw ran clear but his effort left a lot to be desired and whistled wide. The sides went in level at the break with Cobh looking the happier of the sides.
The game really came into life in the second half as both sides upped the tempo. Lorcan Shannon was introduced for Longford and looked lively as soon as he came on. This half was always going to be a test of this young Cobh side’s resilience and they duly stepped up to the plate. O’Sullivan produced an acrobatic bicycle kick in the box but Anthony O’Donnell managed to deflect it out for a corner. Tony Cousins introduced Don Cowan to bolster the Town attack and he really began to change the game. It was all hands on deck for the islanders but the centre back pairing of Brendeán Frahill and Craig Burns dealt with everything thrown at them. Chances fell to O’Sullivan and Cowan but they just couldn’t finish and there was a sense that Ramblers could get something from the game. As word of Cobh’s performance spread around the town, there was a swell in the attendance during the second half. The Longford midfield, lead by Stephen Rice pushed forward at every attempt but to no avail. Roy Kenny deputising at right back was excellent and came to Ramblers rescue as long ball after long ball was pumped into the box. There was a moment of comedy in the game when referee Shane Dunphy dropped his cards on the pitch. Cobh midfielder Alan O’Flynn spotted his opportunity and ‘booked’ the on-looking Dunphy, drawing a laugh from all in attendance. Back to the game and Cowan had a magnificent chance to win it in injury time but his volley was somehow kept out by Hallahan. The Cobh keeper parried before smothering the ball at the feet of the Longford attackers. The sigh of relief could be heard all around the ground. Then at the other end Cobh almost stole the winner. George Gill hit a long free-kick into the Longford penalty area and Frahill rose highest to meet it but his header went agonisingly wide. That was to be it as Shane Dunphy blew the final whistle. Cobh were by far the more joyous of the sides and this result meant a lot to the players. They had given it 100%. For Longford though it was a poor result and this star-studded side didn’t look up for it.
Ramblers are still adrift at the bottom of the table but this result will really give them the confidence to push on. With a lucrative cup tie against Derry City and the July transfer window on the horizon, it could be a promising few weeks for the Rams. Longford on the other hand will be very disappointed with the draw. It was a game they could easily have won and they will rue their missed chances. They are now third, level on points with Galway and four points behind leaders Shelbourne but have a game in hand against Wexford Youths.
It’s and FAI Cup week next week and as I’ve already mentioned, Cobh host Premier Division side Derry City on Saturday at 7.45. Longford travel to local rivals Athlone on Friday in their cup tie.
Cobh Ramblers: Shane Hallahan, Roy Kenny, Craig Burns, Brendeán Frahill, Anthony O’Donnell, Bobbi Donoghue, George Gill, Alan O’Flynn, Martin Deady (C) (Jonathan Creamer 80), Rob Waters, Keith O’Flynn
Substitutes: Robert Birdsall, Eoin Hastings, Danny Barry, Jonathan Spillane
Longford Town: Paul Hunt, Jamie Mulhall, Pat Sullivan, Pat Flynn, William Tyrell, Etanda Nkololo (Lorcan Shannon 45), Stephen Rice (C), Kevin O’Connor, Sean Russell (Don Cowan 65), Gary Shaw, David O’Sullivan
Substitutes: Glenn O’Connor, Noel Haverty, Mark Salmon, Peter Hynes, Chris Bennion.
Report by Thomas Stafford