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Football: Cup hero Sean nearly quit football after rejection.

FOR a sports mad county starved of success nothing prepared everyone associated with Longford Town for the sound of the final whistle in Lansdowne Road Sunday.

Goals from Sean Francis and Shane Barrett gave the midlanders a 2-0 victory over St Patrick's Athletic to help win the FAI Cup and claim the club's first ever piece of silverware.

Five years ago Longford Town were languishing at the bottom of the First Division and were in the process of going out of League of Ireland football, but now the club can look forward next season - their 80th year in football - to a second trip into Europe in two years.

Town winger Sean Prunty admits that he found it hard coming to terms with the enormity of the win: "I could not believe it," he said.

"Before we scored the second goal I said 'they are going to score.'

"The last couple of minutes of the game for a supporter must have been nerve wrecking. My legs were gone. When the final whistle went everything went running through my head. There was tears in my eyes."

Prunty - who had a spell with Middlesbrough - was part of the Town side defeated in a first ever FAI Cup final in 2001 and was also involved with the team defeated by Pat's in the League Cup final earlier this season.

"This time I told myself there was to be no silver medal. Every player who went out there last week was willing to die for the jersey," said Prunty.

If the final scenes in Lansdowne were emotional for Prunty it was nothing compared to the homecoming the team received when it reached Longford.

Thousands of people lined the streets as the team showed off the FAI Cup in an open top bus.

Prunty added: "The people of Longford appreciate what we have done.

"It's great for the town, the county and for the club. It is satisfying to know that people were happy last Sunday for what we did on the pitch.

"It was unbelievable. It made the hair stand on the back of my neck."

Three years ago Sean Prunty returned dejected from England and didn't know what the future held for him. Now he has a cup medal in his hand and is happy playing football for his local team.

"When you come back from England you think the door has closed for you.

"I'm delighted I stuck at football. There have been times when I was going to take a break.

"At the moment Longford Town players are idols in the kids eyes.

"We are their heroes. Kids want to be the next Alan Kirby or Shane Barrett and we have to make sure this occasion is used as a platform for the future."

MEANWHILE Limerick City, lying in fifth place in the First Division, play host to Athlone Town this afternoon's only First Division fixture.

In the last meeting between these two clubs Athlone put a major dent in Limerick's play-off hopes with a 2-0 win.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Nov 2, 2003
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