Andrew Dempsey reports from Bishopsgate
Longford Town got their League of Ireland campaign off with a win on Saturday evening over Shamrock Rovers II.
Goals from both Aodh Dervin and Rob Manley earned a hard-fought win for the Midlander’s over the Hoops second string.
A game that had been the subject of intense scrutiny by many among First Division circles, the young Hoops - led by Aidan Price - only received news of their admittance into the league last month and it was ratified once more last week.
And somewhat ironically, it was Longford – one of the more vocal opponents to the venture – who were the side who welcomed Rovers II to the 2020 First Division.
Of course, this is not the first time the Hoops have had a second string in the second tier – with the Shamrock Rovers B project of 2014 being its predecessor.
Price’s Hoops lined out with a side filled with Irish underage internationals – with starts for Ireland under-19's Brandon Kavanagh and Sean Brennan.
In an even enough start between the sides, Longford produced the best opening of the opening ten minutes, as Aodh Dervin saw his fierce low drive crash off the butt of Leon Pohls’ post.
And shortly after, calls for a home spot-kick fell on deaf ears as referee Alan Patchell turned away a legitimate hand-ball claim from Dean Byrne.
However, despite the hosts early danger, the young Hoops threatened, with both Sinclair Armstrong and Kavanagh forcing saves from Lee Steacy.
But it was just shortly after when the home side took a deserved lead through the dynamic Dervin.
New recruit Manley held up the ball well after the livewire Byrne fed the ball into danger, and the Longford native Dervin was on hand to stroke it into the back of the net.
Just moments later, 2019 First Division top scorer Manley fired wide with a one-on-one on the Hoops netminder after a superb through ball from Byrne.
The Hoops remained a threat as the first half entered its latter stages – with defender Cole Omorehiomnan guiding his free header over the bar under no real pressure as Longford took a lead into the break.
Town ought to have made the game safe shortly after the resumption of the contest in the second half, but Pohls mopped up the danger.
From the resulting attack, Armstrong went close as his effort crashed off the upright of the Town goal – but Steacy and Longford survived.
With just seven minutes of the second half played, the hosts made the game safe through Manley who headed home a Shane Elworthy cross to net his first of the season.
But with the game all but safe, Longford were dealt a considerable blow as Dean Byrne was forced off with injury – with former Bluebell United winger Niall Barnes his replacement.
Hoops II captain Nugent then went close as the hosts lost a bit of their earlier momentum, going close twice in the space of five minutes.
And Armstrong also went close with just under ten minutes remaining, but his header came off the crossbar as time began to run out for the visitors.
But that was essentially that as Longford Town secured just their first opening day win of the season since March 2016.
Longford Town: Lee Steacy; Shane Elworthy , Joe Gorman , Dylan Hand , Aaron McNally ; Aodh Dervin , Dylan Grimes (James English, 81), Sam Verdon (Jack Doherty, 77), Dean Zambra ; Dean Byrne (Niall Barnes, 65), Rob Manley .
Subs not used: Karl Chambers, Luke Dennison, James English, Adam Evans, Joseph Manley.
Sent off: None.
Shamrock Rovers II: Leon Pohls ; Cole Omorehiomnan , Alex Dunne , Sean Callan , Peter Adigun , Adam Wells (Aidomo Emakhu, 76); Darragh Nugent , Brandon Kavanagh , Sean Brennan (Conan Noonan, 86); Thomas Oluwa (Dylan Duffy, 59), Sinclair Armstrong .
Subs not used: Jordan Tallon, Darren Prendergast, Kian Clarke, Danila Bogdanov.
Booked: Adam Wells (54), Sean Callan (69).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Alan Patchell
Attendance: 450 (Estimate).
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Dean Byrne (Longford Town).