Stoke's goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan
Tonight's English Carabao Cup quarter-final match between Stoke City and eventual winners of the game, Spurs, held more than a passing interest for many football fans in the Ballybofey area.
Why, well it's not very often you get a man with strong local connections playing at this level.
Stoke's goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan's grandmother was the late Aggie Long from Cappry just outside the town.
His uncle John Lonergan, a former member of the Twin Towns Boxing Club, lived in Stranorlar for a number of years in the late 1970s-early 80s and worked in McConnell's Butchers for a spell.
Andy still has many relations living in the area who were no doubt cheering him on tonight.
With regular keepers Adam Davies and Angus Gunn injured and Joe Bursik cup-tied having appeared for Doncaster in the competition earlier in the season, Stoke manager and former Northern Ireland boss, Michael O’Neill, had to call on the 37-year-old to line out.
Speaking before the match he knew Andy would be up for the challenge.
“Andy brings vast experience and calmness to us. He has played a lot of games during his career and won’t be fazed if selected to play,” he said.
Indeed Andy has played his fair share of top notch games during his spells and has made 353 league appearances over the course of his career, which has included spells with Preston, Leeds, Bolton and Fulham.
He is a former England U21 international and is also eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland and was on the verge of a call up for Ireland but told by then manager, Brian Kerr, he was surplus to requirements as he had enough keepers.
This was Andy's first appearance for Stoke since he was signed on a short-term contract after he was released by Liverpool at the end of the 2019–20 season.
His spell with the Merseysiders began in July 2019 Liverpool announced Lonergan would be joining the side on their pre-season tour of the US to provide back-up due to a shortage of goalkeepers, starting for Liverpool against Sevilla at Fenway Park, Boston.
After an injury to Liverpool's first choice goalkeeper Alisson, Liverpool announced on August 12 2019 that Lonergan, who had continued training at Melwood after the pre-season, was set to sign a short-term contract with the club.
He was included on the bench in the 2019 UEFA Super Cup and in both of Liverpool's FIFA Club World Cup games.
Despite not making a single appearance in the Premier League, he was handed a winner's medal in the dressing room by manager Jürgen Klopp, with the coaching staff at Melwood noting his valuable contribution in training and guidance to the young reserve goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher from Cork.
Andy was called into action several times tonight saving several well struck shots but the experienced shot-stopper couldn’t do much about the goal which saw Spurs edge in front midway through the first half, however.
Harry Winks played a perfectly weighted ball into the box, where Gareth Bale had managed to peel off his marker and flick it into the bottom corner.
The Potters were grateful to Lonergan to ensure that they only went into the break a goal behind, as he was quick off his line to deny Dele Alli, before tipping the England international’s long-range effort wide of goal.
The hosts came out for the second half with plenty of fire in their bellies, and pulled themselves level in the 53rd minute thanks to a sweeping move.
Fletcher collected the ball before feeding Brown down the right, and the frontman’s cross to the far post was expertly fired home by Jordan Thompson.
Just as City started to look the more likely to score the game’s third goal, they dealt a bodyblow on 71 minutes when Davies drilled in a low effort from range which clipped the inside of the post and rolled over the line.
Kane then fired over, before the striker managed to win back possession deep inside the opposition half and released Heung-Min Son, who chipped the ball over the line but he was adjuged to have been in an offside position.
Kane was involved again soon after as he netted Spurs’ third, powering into the box and firing a stinging effort into the roof of the net.
With time running out for the hosts to find at least two goals, Fletcher and Smith both saw efforts fly wide of Huge Lloris’ upright, before the Frenchman was forced to save a late strike from substitute Sam Vokes.
The final score was Stoke City 1 Spurs 3.
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