Manager Brian McCormack and his U17s became the only Athlone Town team to beat Longford Town this season when they knocked their Midlands rivals out of the Shield competition in the first round.
Neither the first team or the U19s had been able to record a win over Longford, but a first half goal at Lissywollen last Friday night (September 29 ) proved sufficient to swing the balance back in Athlone’s favour.
Having finished four points ahead of Athlone in the league, Longford were favourites to advance and looked set to progress early on. The opening corner kick was earned after just four minutes, followed by a second soon after.
Athlone were slow to start but struck after 12 minutes of play for what proved to be the winning score in their first meaningful attack. Oisin Duffy passed to TJ Cox, and while his low ball into the danger zone was missed by Tom O’Carroll, Nashir Ishola came in at the back post to shoot to the net.
The hosts had a chance to double the lead on 20 minutes but goalkeeper Killian Gaffey made a good save to deny O’Carroll. Another chance for Athlone fell to Ishola, but in delaying his shot he allowed a Longford defender to block his effort.
Longford’s best chance of grabbing an equaliser came on the half hour mark from a corner kick. Ciaran Barry looked set to find the net, but his point blank shot was brilliantly pushed away by Darcy Lawlessin the home goal.
The main danger on the resumption of play came from corners, with Athlone forcing two and Longford replying with one. McCormack’s lads had a glorious chance to increase the lead after 54 minutes, but with the goal at his mercy Cox headed a right wing cross wide.
The stakes were high with the season hinging on this game. The tension was obvious as the half progressed, as the winners would prolong their campaign for another game at least. It would be the end of the road though for the losers.
Athlone continued to create the better chances but were unable to take advantage. O’Carroll’s free kick was gathered under his crossbar by Gaffey, with the home captain then denied by the crossbar. Daniel Luczynski had a shot blocked behind, but Longford rarely looked like forcing the tie into extra time.
Athlone substitute Jordan Carr saw his shot parried by the keeper with Gaffey also saving from Cox at his near post. On another night, the home misses could have proved costly but luck was on Athlone’s side on this occasion.
Callum McKelvey had the last chance for the home side as Athlone held out to celebrate a fine victory at the end, finally laying the 2017 Longford hoodoo to rest. Athlone’s reward for beating their Midland rivals is another tough tie in the quarter finals, as they travel to Ferrycarrig Park to take on Wexford FC, with a last four slot awaiting the winners.