Longford Town will be playing Premier Division football next season as Rob Manley’s solitary goal earned the victory for the Midlands club over ten-men Shelbourne in the Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Final in Richmond Park.
It was a tale of two halves for the striker as he missed a penalty in the first-half only to score the vital all-important winner in the second. Daire Doyle’s side has overcome UCD, Galway and Shelbourne en route to their place in the 2021 Premier Division season.
After a tense opening period with nothing given from either side the game sprung into life midway through the first-half. Rob Manley won Longford a penalty after a long-ball over the top saw the Longford striker chase the ball down but he was felled in the area by Luke Byrne, and Neil Doyle pointed to the spot. It was Byrnes second yellow card of the game and he was consequently sent off.
Manley dusted himself down but he failed to convert the penalty as he blazed his effort over the bar.
Karl Sheppard had an opportunity to take the lead as his cross-shot was tipped over by Lee Stacey, just as the effort looked as if it could evade the keeper and creep in at the back post. Longford, looking to use their numerical advantage to full effect, had a series of crosses into the area but Shelbourne’s defence held firm under increased pressure.
The second half saw Longford continue their pressure on Shelbourne and it eventually paid off. Rob Manley made up for his penalty miss by breaking the deadlock when the ball was sent into the area by Dylan Grimes and the Manley’s shot took a deflection off Daniel Byrne and the ball it looped over Jack Brady and into the net to open the scoring and put the Midlanders in the lead.
It looked as if they added a second moments later when a goalmouth scramble saw Joe Gorman slam it home from close range but the effort was ruled out for offside.
Ryan Brennan had a good chance to equalise when a long ball sent into the experienced player fell to his feet and despite the pressure, he got his effort goal-bound but it went over the bar. It looked as if there Shelbourne would conjure up a late equaliser as Ryan Brennan’s effort was well saved by Steacy at the near post but no one could follow up on the initial effort.
Despite late rallies from Shelbourne, Longford held on led by the impressive Aodh Dervin to see Longford back in the Premier Division for the first time since 2016.
Shelbourne: Jack Brady, Aidan Friel, Oscar Brennan, Luke Byrne (Captain), Alex O’Hanlon, Mark Byrne (Brian McManus 58), Sean Quinn, Shane Farrell (Daniel Byrne 27 mins), Karl Sheppard (Aaron Dobbs 57 Mins), Dayle Rooney (Ryan Brennan 58 mins), Ciaran Kilduff (Jaze Kabia 64 Mins).
Subs: Colin McCabe (GK), Alex Cetiner.
Longford Town: Lee Steacy, Shane Elworthy, Michael McDonnell, Dean Zambra (Captain), Dylan Grimes, Robert Manley (Callum Warfield 88 mins), Aodh Dervin, Karl Chambers (Dean Byrne 68 Mins), Aaron McNally, Joe Manley, Joe Gorman.
Subs: Luke Dennison (GK), Dylan Hand, Niall Barnes, Aaron McCabe, Matthew O’Brien.
Booked: Aodh Dervin, Luke Byrne
Sent off: Luke Byrne (26 Mins)
Referee: Neil Doyle.