SOCCER: GARY SHAW INTERVIEW
Expectations surpassed at Longford Town
By Daire Walsh
2015 proved to be a memorable year for Longford Town FC, who crowned their long-awaited return to the League of Ireland’s top-flight by achieving a respectable sixth-place finish in the Premier League – and also reaching the semi-final of the FAI Cup.
Former Newbridge Town attacker Gary Shaw was a regular for Tony Cousins’ side throughout this year’s productive campaign, and he acknowledges that they may have surpassed the expectations that are normally set out for promoted teams.
“Team performance wise, we finished sixth and got to an FAI Cup semi-final. We can’t really complain about that. I suppose, you’d go and say you’re nearly overachieving as a team that just came up from the First Division. But we set our target as sixth at the start of the season and managed to achieve it,” Shaw remarks.
Although they secured a mid-table finish at the end of the term, it was only during the latter stages of the campaign that they finally made certain of their Premier Division status. A 3-0 success over Drogheda United on October 23 ultimately ensured Longford’s safety for 2016, and this was a particularly pleasing game for Shaw.
The 23-year-old ended a lengthy barren spell by grabbing a brace against Drogheda, and he subsequently brought this momentum into the concluding game of the season at home to Derry City.
“Yeah, the goal was a long time coming to be honest with you. I hadn’t scored in a good while. I went into each game always still [with] the same hunger to score.”
“Personally, it was great to score twice, and then I went on to score again the following week in the last game of the season against Derry.”
However, his early season form was enough to attract interest from a number of clubs at the mid-way point in the term – including eventual champions Dundalk. Shaw reveals that there was a concrete offer on the table from the Oriel Park men, but he ultimately decided to see out the year at Longford.
“When you sign at the start of the season, you always think about seeing the season through. There was a concrete offer there from Dundalk, Longford decided to turn it down. The manager approached me, and Tony [Cousins] was great.”
“He told me everything. There was about four clubs that came in half-way during the season, but Tony told me every time that there was a phone call that came in, and he said to me ‘look, is it something you’d be interested in?’I told Tony that, ‘no, I want to see out the season with Longford’. I’d been working hard for him, and I wanted to finish up with them.”
It is almost five years since Shaw left Newbridge Town (his second spell at the club), but he has kept a close connection to the club in the years that have followed.
He helps out as a coach at underage level during the off-season, and considering some of the young talent that Newbridge have at their disposal, he feels that League of Ireland football could return to Kildare at some point.
“I always like to get up to a couple of the [Newbridge] games. I do a bit of coaching down with the underage teams when I have a chance. Mostly in the off-season, because I do be training.”
“I used to go to the Kildare County games when I was younger. Pity it didn’t sustain itself. The facilities are there, they have the pitch, they have the stand, they have everything. The real issue is the money. The money isn’t there for the league. It would be great to get it back.”
“I’m sure there’s plenty of local talent there to get a good side together. That would be something that I’m sure is in their long-term plans if that’s what they want. Hopefully they can manage that.”
As for his own future, Shaw’s hasn’t yet made a decision in relation to where he will play in 2016. He will attempt o finalise his plans in the coming weeks, though, and hopes that he can make a choice that will fulfill his long-term ambitions.
“No, I always like to take a couple of weeks off. It’s tough mentally as a player, and you just kind of want to switch off from all football, and then go back two or three weeks after with a fresh head.”
“We’re coming up to the two week mark now, when I finished with the last game with Longford. I’m going to sit down with Tony now, and go through what his plans are. If any other managers ring, I’ll listen to what they have to say, but I’ll put everything on to the table, and see what’s best for my future,” Shaw added.