Mervue face crucial contest with Athlone

Flying high in the Airtricity League first division, Mervue United commence the second series of fixtures with a Fahy's Field encounter against Athlone Town tomorrow night.

Johnny Glynn's rapidly improving outfit trails table-toppers Longford Town by four points and that is a huge improvement for Mervue compared to last season. Despite the inevitable departures of a few key performers, Glynn has unearthed a string of promising youngsters. Ultimately that means Mervue are operating effectively, even if the standard of football in the domestic competition has dropped significantly.

Last Friday Mervue finished with a real flourish to put a convincing gloss on the 4-1 win over Wexford Youths. Still Mervue encountered plenty of difficulty in that contest before shrugging off Wexford's spirited and stubborn resistance.

Stephen Walsh's opener was cancelled by Shane Nolan, but Mervue stayed calm, converting opportunities in clinical fashion during a mad climax to an interesting encounter.

Strikes from Gary Curran, Gary Shanahan, and Noel Varley secured a deserved and dynamic triumph. Twelve points out of a possible 21 have been pocketed and Mervue will be keen to maintain this encouraging form when Roddy Collins' Athlone visit the west.

Michael McSweeney, Walsh, Tom King, Curran, Varley, and Jason Molloy all contributed handsomely for Mervue in the success over Wexford. Collins has Athlone well organised and, having lost Saturday's midlands derby, ensures they will be keen to summon a positive response. It is a crucial contest for Mervue, who are anxious to stay in touch with leaders Longford.

Salthill Devon

Salthill make the trip to Flancare Park on Saturday for a top versus bottom collision and Tony Mannion's charges know they are in serious danger of being marooned again. Only two draws have been posted by Devon from their first seven fixtures of the campaign.

Though Salthill were plucky in Ballybofey, they still came home empty handed and Wexford, the nearest side to them in the standings, have a five-point cushion. Trimming that gap is Salthill's objective over the next month and Robbie Gaul, Brian Geraghty, Cian Fadden, Mixie Harty, and Derek O'Brien will need to recapture the defiance they showed in Donegal.

Tony Cousins has constructed an efficient Longford team and is adamant that top flight status can be obtained by the end of the year. Salthill's ambitions are more modest, but they will be striving to make life awkward for Longford during an important battle for both clubs.--

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