Kerry FC were back at home this past Friday night as they looked to put a difficult double-game week behind them and come back stronger against Stephen Henderson’s Longford Town. The away side came into the game with high confidence after they put a stop to Galway United’s record run on the bank holiday Monday with a 1-0 win. Kerry, as mentioned, came in off the back of two defeats last weekend to Treaty United and Cobh Ramblers, respectively. They will want to change their fortunes around and will have a big battle ahead if they want to beat the record breakers.
In his dugout notes Kerry FC manager Billy Dennehy talked about the last two games since being away from home and how they were very tough, but they want to put it right, especially for the twelfth man in the Mounthawk Park supporters.
Despite last Monday’s win, Longford are just one position above the Kingdom in the table, and in Monday’s press conference, Dennehy reiterated that they need to start picking up points against teams that are closer to them in the league standings. As the old saying goes, there is no time like the present for Kerry to start doing so, and hopefully, they could go on and pick up a few more points to start the push up the League of Ireland First Division table.
Kerry started lively in the first half, and a corner won by Trpimir Vrljicak gave the home side a positive start to the game. Sean O’Connell whipped in the ball from the right corner flag, Trpimir won the header which turned out to be a bit of a floater and caused trouble for Longford. The ball was dropping and looked like it could have gone in, but it was cleared off the line and dealt with by the Town’s defence.
Even though the possession was even throughout the opening stages, it was Longford who hit in front first. A long pass given out on the right wing was cut back along the ground by Josh Giurgi. Giurgi’s pass was met by Stephen Meaney who had his effort finished very well into the bottom left corner to give Longford the lead.
Despite the goal, Kerry still had their fair share of the possession but were struggling to make any clear-cut chances out of it. They knew that going one down early would make it tough for them as the game progressed.
A bit of controversial refereeing was done about ten minutes or so before halftime. A free kick was won by Jamal Ibrahim who was showing himself to be quite the nuisance in the first half. The free was to be taken on the right side of the box but was delayed due to a lot of fouling by the Longford attackers. A yellow card was eventually dished out to Viktor Serdeniuk, but even for the persisting fouls, referee Mark Houlihan let the free kick be taken. Thankfully, nothing came of it, and Kerry cleared their lines.
Kerry ended the half very well and battled hard, but unfortunately, Longford’s lead was doubled right on half-time. A quick corner completely catches out the Kerry defence and a cross is met by Shane Elworthy who nicked the header and placed it brilliantly into the bottom right corner to get the visitors a 2-0 lead at half-time.
Kerry started the second half well on top and it remained that way for the duration of the second half. The first chance of the half came from a free kick won on the right wing by Nathan Gleeson. The free was delivered well into the box from Leo Gaxha, though cleared at first the ball was put back in by Kevin Williams through a superb standing overhead kick. It was dipping inside the box and over Jack Brady in the Longford goal but again another Kerry effort was cleared off the line, this time by Josh Giurgi.
Kerry got themselves back into the game just six minutes after that chance through Sean McGrath. Togor Silong who made his debut tonight played brilliantly for just a 17-year-old lad, made a fantastic tackle to regain possession and slipped in Nathan Gleeson on the right side of the box. He drilled his shot low and although it was saved superbly by Brady, it came back out to McGrath who had an open goal to give Kerry hope.
The home crowd were feeding off the energy the second-half substitutes gave the team overall and Kerry’s intensity went up a gear. Unfortunately, just eight minutes after the goal, Longford regained their two-goal lead from one of their only attacks in the second period. A high ball put deep into the Kerry defence was headed by Matt Keane. It looked to be a solid interception but sadly went over the head of Callan Cully in goal and Kerry were facing an uphill battle once again.
Again, the two-goal deficit did not hinder Kerry’s fantastic second half performance and they battled through till the end. A long over the top pass from Sean McGrath made its way through to Leo Gaxha who beat Jack Brady to it. Brady stayed on his feet as he knew if he dived in a penalty would have gone the way of the Kingdom. Gaxha persisted with it and played around Brady very well. He gave a nice dink into the penalty area and Ryan Kelliher was there once again to head home and get Kerry back into the game with about twenty minutes to go.
Kerry were very unlucky not to get an equaliser late on and it finished 3-2 to Longford Town. Another frustrating night for the Kingdom, but the second half performance is something to build on, especially ahead of next week’s visit to Athlone Town who are well in the hunt of a promotion place to the Premier Division.
Kerry FC Team: 16. Callan Scully, 2. Rob Vasiu, 18. Samuel Aladesanusi, 15. Kevin Williams (C), 14. Andy Quaid, 3. Sean O’connell, 22. Cian Barrett, 13. Togor Silong, 20. Trpimir Vrljicak, 9. Ryan Kelliher (Goal ‘75), 7. Sean Mcgrath (Goal ‘61).
Subs: Aaron O’ Sullivan, Leo Gaxha, Matt Keane (O.g ‘68), Alex Ainscough, Ronan Teahen, Cianan Cooney, Nathan Gleeson, Kennedy Amechi, Shane Guthrie
Longford Town Team: 1. Jack Brady, 2. Shane Elworthy (C) (Goal ‘44), 6. Adam Verdon, 10. Gary Armstrong (Derek Daly ‘73), 13. Cian Byrne, 16. Aodh Dervin, 18. Viktor Serdeniuk, 20. Kyle O’connor, 7. Joshua Giurgi, 11. Jamal Ibrahim (Emmanuel James ‘89), 17. Stephen Meaney (Goal ‘7).