Longford Town size up another crack at cup glory
The footballers of Longford Town are up against more than just the 11 men of Dundalk when the sides meet in the FAI Cup semi-final tonight.
Longford boss Tony Cousins has been in the game long enough to know that, as far as neutrals are concerned, the dream pairing for the Cup final next month is a Dundalk-Cork City game. That final would be seen as being good for the game, good for TV and good for the final itself, no matter what the players and supporters of the other semi-finalists (Longford and Bray Wanderers) feel.
As one of the more experienced players in the Longford squad, two-time FAI Cup winner Conor Powell has heard the suggestion that his side are just an annoyance for Dundalk on the way to the final, so the task for the midlands club is to upset the agenda and get a place in the final for themselves.
"From an outsider's point of view, a Cork-Dundalk final is the one that everyone wants. But that's not the view we are taking," Powell told The Herald.
"They are the top two teams in the Premier this season, they battled it out for the top two last season as well so they are they seen as the best two teams in the league, with good squads and big support. But we are in the semi-final on merit, we have no plans to just lie down before Dundalk so they can make that final happen.
"It doesn't really bother me to hear that kind of talk, that we're not really wanted in the final by other people. We look after ourselves and we have distances ourselves from all that.
"We know in that dressing room what we are capable of, we'll let the outsiders talk all they want and we'll get on with our jobs," added Powell, one of a handful of Longford players who have tasted the Cup final appearance at Lansdowne Road as he was a Cup winner there with Longford Town in 2011 (he also won a Cup medal with Bohemians but that success happened at the RDS.
"It's a great stage to play on, the home of the national team," says Powell, who also lined out at the Dublin 4 venue in the first match played there, for the Airtricity League XI against Manchester United.
"For the sake of our supporters, who have been great to us this season, I would love to get back there with Longford. I've been to the Cup final and had that great experience of winning.
"I was only 21 when I won it for the first time with Bohemians, you never know how many finals you'll get to in your career so we have to approach this as if it's our last chance to get there."
Doing some homework on their opponents could provide some harsh facts for Longford ahead of this game. Dundalk have scored 13 goals (and conceded just one) in their three games so far in this competition, while they have been scoring goals for fun in the league (nine goals in the last two games alone). But ex-U21 cap Powell, who played under Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny at Shamrock Rovers, sees some hope. "They beat us twice in the league but we also got a draw against them," he says. "In our last game against Dundalk we had a man sent off in the first half and we had to battle hard but we still got a point, we played well up in Oriel and if we'd had 11 men I feel we could have got more out of the game.
"They are a very good side, they are on a roll and they probably feel they can beat anybody. So it's up to us to deal with that, the pressure will be on them as no one expects us to beat them and get into the final."
Longford, still not clear from the danger of relegation, are hampered tonight by the fact that Dean Kelly and Jack Doherty are both cup-tied. Dundalk are at full strength.