AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @Kieran_b_sport/@betweenstripes
Cobh Ramblers relinquished their 100% record on Saturday night but remain unbeaten in the SSE Airtricity League First Division following a forgettable scoreless draw in Longford. Ramblers had the opportunity to go level on points with early pace-setters Galway United with a win at Bishopsgate this weekend. Still, despite passing up the opportunity, Cobh boss Shane Keegan felt the result was another sign of his sides’ progression from last season.
“The team I had last season would have lost that game because when we were in tight games last season we lost them, simple as, that was the case in every tight game we were in we got nothing out of them so that’s a huge positive.”
“We definitely have more steel about us, I thought that steel was summed up most tonight by Cian Browne who I thought was our most outstanding player on the field, we have more steel about us and we were capable of grinding out a point that we wouldn’t have been capable of doing last year”, Keegan told BetweenTheStripes.net after the match.
While Keegan was pleased with the overall outcome of the game, the former league winner with Wexford Youths admitted his team’s first-half performance was their worst of the season so far. Cobh can certainly feel fortunate not to have been behind at the break with Longford Town strike Jamal Ibrahim missing a guilt-edged chance as his header from close range came back off the Cobh crossbar to the relief of former Town goalkeeper Lee Steacy, who was making his first appearance against the club he won promotion with in 2020 after leaving for Drogheda United last summer.
Ramblers manager Keegan revealed that he had held a conversation after the game with his players in regards to their preparation arrangments for away games in Longford as Saturday night wasn’t the first time the Cork men had failed to exit the traps quickly at the Midlands venue.
“Our first-half performance was very poor, by far and away our poorest forty-five minutes of the season, we had a conversation about that in the dressing room, do we need to change our travel plans or eating plans because we came up here last year after I’d taken over and we were sh*te in the first-half of that as well, so we’re kind of looking if there’s something we need to alter there because we just haven’t been at the races.”
“We were very lucky to get in nil-all at half-time, very lucky, but thankfully we very much improved in the second-half and could have won it but still could have lost it, Longford had a couple of decent chances in that half as well”, Keegan added.
In fact, the visitors thought they had stolen all three points when a late Jack Doherty free-kick was headed home by substitute Callum Stringer only for the assistant referee on the stand side to very quickly raise his flag for off-side. Asked for his verdict on the games most crucial decision, Keegan admitted it was an extremely tight call.
“My instinct was to look straight up the line to see was there a flag and there was because all the rest of my bench were celebrating and I was able to turn around fairly quickly to them and say no.”
“It was an instant flag to be fair, it will be interesting to see that one back.”
Having made such a strong start to the campaign, perhaps Keegan was attempting to play down expectations slightly after the match when he claimed he would be happy to see the three clubs he feels are title favourites in Galway, Waterford, and Bray pull clear of the rest of the chasing pack so that Cobh can focus on battling it out with the teams he feels will be in or around them battling for the final play-off spots.
“You look at the league table and we come up here knowing if we win we would’ve went top so we’ll probably travel back now a little bit annoyed we weren’t able to take that opportunity.”
“If I was sticking my neck out I would put Galway, Waterford, and Bray as the top three, in what order I don’t know but when I’m watching games at the moment I want those three to win every game, I’m happy enough for those three to head off into the sunset ahead of us and then let’s see how the rest of us do.”
“I think after those three… best of luck picking a winner, it’s going to be so so tight in every game, I’d take arm and all off you if we’re able to scrape in to a fifth place play-off.”
Cobh Ramblers travel next to a Treaty United side who have yet to win this season and with the Limerick club having qualified for the play-offs in the last two seasons, a win in that fixture would be another surefire sign that Ramblers are very much in the promotion picture this season.