Friday 25th July 2008

Waterford United 4 Longford Town 0
FAI eircom League of Ireland Division 1
At: the RSC
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 320
Weather: warm, dry and sunny
Duration: first half: 47:26; second half: 47:14

Waterford United tried to put behind them a difficult few weeks as they recorded an impressive victory over Longford Town to maintain their unbeaten home record and move into second position.

The original plan was to watch games at both Cork City and Cobh Ramblers during our long weekend in the south of Ireland. However, with the Cork game put back two days for TV purposes, we quickly changed our plans (prior to departure I may add) and from Cork headed for Waterford.

The club was founded in 1930 as Waterford FC and enjoyed a purple patch in the late 1960s and early 1970s by winning the League of Ireland title six times in eight seasons when based at their former Kilcohan Park home. Former England and Manchester United forward Bobby Charlton played for the club during the mid-1970s at the end of his playing career. The club adopted the present title of 'Waterford United' in 1982.

Since 1993, United have played their home games at the RSC (or Regional Sports Centre) which is located on the N25 Cork-Waterford road about three miles from the city centre. The ground, with an athletics track surrounding the pitch, boasts two substantial seated stands; the main stand on the Cork Road side seats around 1300 while the recently-completed and larger Kilbarry Stand on the far side seats around 1800. There are four floodlight pylons on each side, grouped together in pairs next to the ends of the stands.

After tea at close-by Eddie Rocket's and I walked towards town with the family who were keen to further investigate the history of Waterford with its old walls and towers. As is my habit, I arrived at the ground early – so early this time that the turnstiles hadn’t opened! Admission was 15 euro and through the gate was a table selling programmes (3 euro, 28 pages) and raffle tickets. The sellers were certainly chatty and interested in my trip. I bought a strip of raffle tickets for the prize of a luxury hamper – how on earth would I get it home if my ticket was drawn? I didn't win.

The man on the turnstile told me that "you can sit in either stand, but not standing." There was plenty of time to circumnavigate the RSC. The turnstile man suggested the stand on the far side would give the best view but I opted for a seat in the main Cork Road Stand, seat ‘L36’ to be precise. I copied down the team line-ups in the Press Box but in any case they were read out over the tannoy.

Reading the programme, I established that, like a lot of clubs, Waterford were suffering financially. In fact, after discussions with between the club, Manager and players, the immediate future of the club had been secured.

With leaders Dundalk defeating Monaghan United yesterday (24th July), it was important that third-placed Waterford gained maximum points from this game with Longford. Second-placed Shelbourne, level on points with Waterford with a marginally better goal difference, were also in action at Kildare County. Longford occupied sixth position in the ten-team Division One.

Waterford got the game under away attacking from left to right as I looked down from my seat in the stand. And it didn’t take them long to take the lead. In the 9th minute, skipper David Breen headed home with a looping header. The lead was almost doubled eight minutes later when Luke Fitzpatrick had a goal disallowed for offside.

A nasty injury to keeper Packie Holden forced an early change in the 26th minute but home fans were celebrating again a few minutes before the interval. Karl Bermingham stayed onside to latch onto Fitzpatrick's throughball and slot past the helpless Longford keeper.

At the break Waterford were certainly in the driving seat. There was a loud cheer when the half-time scores were read out – second-placed Shelbourne were losing 1-0 at bottom-of-the-table Kildare City.

Michael Foley exchanged passes with Bermingham and slotted home at close range just after the hour mark to put the outcome as good as beyond doubt. A spectacular strike from David Grincell wrapped up the win. The substitute gave Neil Gallagher no chance from fully 35 yards out with a well-struck shot that flew into the top-right corner of the net.

News came in that Shelbourne had come from behind to win 2-1 at Kildare but Waterford leapt over the Dublin club into second position on goals scored. It should be an interesting end to the season as both Dundalk and Shelbourne have to visit the RSC during the final few weeks of the season.