Friday 14th March 2014. SSE Airtricity League Premier Division. Athlone Town Stadium.
Athlone Town 1-4 Shamrock Rovers
Eighteen years after their last home League game as a Premier Division side, Athlone Town were handed a difficult first home fixture when they hosted Shamrock Rovers on Friday night in Athlone Town Stadium. With previous midlands meetings taking place in St Mel’s Park and Dubarry Park, the game marked Rovers first competitive visit to the venue, having played a pre-season friendly there in 2009.
Despite being injury free, and welcoming Derek Prendergast for his home debut, Athlone’s relatively small squad were feeling the effects of a busy opening schedule as they took to the field for the third time in seven days.
With the game scheduled for a 7.45pm kick off, a floodlight issue delayed the start, and the game was underway just five minutes before a dip in the lights forced referee Tomas Connolly to call a halt to proceedings while the problem was rectified.
With the game finally under way, Rovers looked the dominant force from the start and took the lead in the 21st minute when Ciaran Kilduff was on hand to fire home from close range after Athlone goalkeeper Paul Skinner lost control of Sean O’Connor’s corner.
Eight minutes later the visitors doubled their advantage when the lively Gary McCabe latched on to Shane Robinson’s through ball to calmly slot the ball past Skinner. After attempts from Sean O’Connor and Luke Byrne, McCabe almost netted a brace before the break, but his powerful shot rattled the upright.
With the second half just four minutes old, Rovers effectively sealed the win when Ciaran Kilduff got on the end of Simon Madden’s cross from the right to score his second of the game, hooking the ball past Skinner as he fell backwards.
Athlone manager Mick Cooke tried to shake things up just after the hour mark with a triple substitution seeing Barry Clancy, Ian Sweeney and Graham Rusk coming on for Sean Byrne, Mark Hughes and Jason Marks. Despite the introduction of fresh legs, Rovers remained dominant with chances few and far between for the hosts. Wave after wave of attack saw Skinner thwart Kilduff from getting his hat-trick while also stopping Ronan Finn and Karl Sheppard getting on the score sheet.
Athlone were dealt another blow in the closing ten minutes when captain Aidan Collins hit the ground hard during a challenge, dislocating his shoulder in the process. With all three substitutes already on the pitch, Athlone were forced to see out the game with ten men.
With the clock running down, Rovers substitute Eamon Zayed wrapped up the scoring for the visitors to make it four, before Alan Byrne pulled back an injury time consolation goal, forcing the ball over the line from close range in a crowded penalty area.
Saturday 8th March 2014. SSE Airtricity League Premier Division. The Showgrounds.
Sligo Rovers 2-1 Athlone Town
On a wet Saturday evening, Athlone Town traveled to The Showgrounds to begin life in the Premier Division with a difficult game against Sligo Rovers.
With a small squad to operate with, Athlone had to plan without Derek Prendergast due to suspension, while they could only manage to fill 5 of the 7 allowed places on the substitutes list.
As expected, Sligo had the lions share of possession early on and attacked from the start with Danny Ledwith striking the post with a shot inside the opening 5 minutes, before Aaron Greene had Paul Skinner scampering across his goal to cover his shot from distance.
After taking the opening 15 minutes to settle, Athlone tried to make inroads on goals, however playing Philly Gorman as a lone front man left last seasons top scorer chasing down everything with little support.
As the half progressed, Ledwith and Kaelan Spillane both had efforts sail just the wrong side of the woodwork, while Gary Rogers in the Sligo goal was left untroubled for the majority of the half.
In the second half, Paul Skinner showed exactly why he was named in last years Team of the Season, with a string of fine saves in quick succession from Davi Cawley and Eric Odhiambo before again denying Danny Ledwith.
With 53 minutes played, Athlone finally got the rub of the green when a handball inside the area left referee Rob Rogers no option but to award a penalty to the visitors. Up stepped Gorman to cooly fire the ball low and hard just beyond the outstretched left arm of Gary Rogers.
The lead lasted just 10 minutes though when wave after wave of attack finally found a chink in Athlones armor and John Russell nipped in to head home at the back post after David Cawley’s cross from the right wing caught the town defence ball watching.
With Sligo throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at Athlone, it looked like the Midlanders would leave the North West with a hard fought draw; but fortune favors the brave and with 2 minutes left on the clock, substitute Even McMillan latched on to John Russell’s low cross into the box to fire past Skinner from close range.
Monday 10th March 2014. EA Sports Cup. Athlone Town Stadium.
Athlone Town 0-1 Longford Town
Wearing a less than traditional kit of Orange and Black, Athlone Town crashed out of the EA Sports Cup at the first hurdle as Longford took the spoils in a lack luster Cup Derby at Athlone Town Stadium.
Despite wearing the Dutch colours, Athlones performance was far from “Total Football” as they took to the field for their second game in three days. With a tough game against Sligo barely behind them and an equally tough encounter with Shamrock Rovers to come, Athlone tried a squad rotation for the visit of Longford Town. Having a small squad, however, meant that the rotation was mostly positional as Kealon Dillon and Sean Byrne moved into midfield roles, with Grahan Rusk playing up front and Jason Marks floating between midfield and forward roles. Alan Byrne dropped back to sit in between the center backs and center midfield while Neil Harney and Barry Clancy came in to the full back positions.
In the first half Athlone made a flurry of attacks, with Kealon Dillon firing over the bar before Graham Rusk squandered a chance from close range. Just before the break, Longford had their first clear cut chance when Kevin O’Connors shot deflected wide of Craig Sextons post.
Athlone started the second half brightly with Dillon coming close to breaking deadlock, but his deft lob bounced just the wrong side of the post as keeper Paul Hunt stood in no mans land.
On the 70th minute, Longford got the rub of the green when Sexton parried a shot from Davy O’Sulivan, and with the Athlone defence caught flat footed, Gary Shaw was on hand to fire home unchallenged. Ten minutes later, James O’Brien came close to equalising but as his long range shot looked destined for the top right corner, Hunt pulled off an acrobatic save to flick the ball just over the bar to ensure Longford progressed to the next round.
Wednesday 5th MArch 2014. International Friendly. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland 1-2 Serbia
A Filip Dordevic goal, added to James McCarthys o.g, cancelled out Shane Longs opening score as Serbia
defeated Ireland in an International Friendly that did little to entertain the Lansdowne Road crowd.
Saturday 22nd February 2014. PreSeason Friendly. Eamonn Deacy Park
Galway FC 1-0 Athlone Town
In torrential rain, a common trend in 2014 preseason, the Leagues newest team Galway FC beat the oldest Athlone Town on a scoreline of 1-0 in Eamonn Deacy Park
Wednesday 19th February 2014. Leinster Senior Cup.
Wexford Youths 1-4 Athlone. Ferrycarrig Park.
Eighteen years after their last competitive game as a Premier Division team, Athlone Town took to the field as a top flight outfit once again on Wednesday evening with a convincing win over Wexford Youths in the 2014 Leinster Senior Cup.
In extremely difficult conditions, thanks to a constant downpour in the not so sunny South East, Athlone took the lead inside the opening ten minutes when a defensive error allowed Sean Brennan cut through from the left wing to latch on to the ball, calmly slotting it under Brandon Callaghan in the Wexford goal.
Athlone found themselves two up inside twenty minutes when Graham Rusk opened his account with a wind assisted shot from the edge of the eighteen yard box that flew over Callaghans outstretched arm and into the top of the net.
Minutes later the wind played a part in Wexfords revival when Danny Furlong sent a looping header from just inside the penalty area, over the back peddling Paul Skinner and into the net.
Furlong came close to drawing the sides level before the break when his delicate flick past the advancing Skinner bounced the wrong side of the post and wide.
Conditions went from bad to worse in the second half, with heavier rain adding to the already howling wind. On the hour mark, and with the wind moving the ball in all directions in the air, Mark Hughes took advantage of some nervous goalkeeping when Callaghan dropped a cross allowing the midfielder tap in from close range to restore a two goal lead.In the closing twenty minutes James O’Brien wrapped things up for the visitors when the Wexford keeper lost control of the ball outside the area, and with the goals empty he sent an angled shot into the net to make it four.
In the later stages of the game, Athlone were reduced to ten men when Alan Byrne had to leave the field injured after all the allowed substitutions had already been used.
View Photos From Wexford Youths 1-4 Athlone Town
On Wednesday 12th February, at the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone Town Football Club held their 217th Annual General Meeting, commemorating one of the Clubs most successful years on the field. The top table consisted of Club President, Tony Knight, Treasurer Joey Boland, Chairman John Hayden and Secretary David Dully.
The Secretary, David Dully, opened proceedings by reading the minutes of the 126th AGM before Club President, Tony Knight, called for a minutes silence in memory of deceased members and supporters of the club. After the President congratulated the club on a successful 2013, Club Treasurer Joey Boland distributed the accounts.
The accounts, for year ending 30th November 2013, showed a profit on ordinary activities of €152, an increase of €27,821 on the 2012 figure which was largely attributed to increased gate receipts, along with prize money coming from the League win.
Administration expenses rose by €16996 which largely accounted for gathering of a squad coming into the 2013 season.
Chairman, John Hayden, began his speech by recognising the clubs achievements on the field of play with the U17 side winning their League, the U19s winning the League of Ireland U19 Southern Division while the Senior side finished the year as League of Ireland Division 1 Champions, earning promotion to the Premier Division for the first time in eighteen years.
Special mention also went to Patrick Dunican, Aaron O’Neill and Ryan Gaffey on their call ups to the Ireland U18’s and U17’s respectively while also acknowledging the work done by the local underage club in developing players.
He also recognised the frustration felt by supporters with regard to the departure of manager Roddy Collins, stating that as events were unfolding, the club did not wish to conduct business in public at a time when negotiations were still on going with the management team. Hayden stated that Roddy still remains a friend of the club, however from a financial point of view the Club could not meet his expectations going into 2014. He also complimented the supporters for the carnival like atmosphere they brought to Athlone Town Stadium during the year and looked forward to their continued support in the Premier Division while announcing James Blacoe and John Croughan as Supporter Liaison Officers for 2014.
Hayden continued with an overview of the Clubs longer term vision with the continuation of underage teams at U17 and U19 level along with a partnership with local schoolboy club St Francis. There will also be investigations into the possibilities of fielding teams at U15 and U16 level in line with the recommendations of FAI High Performance Director Ruud Doktor. The club have also entered a partnership with neighboring Scoil na gCeithre Máistrí, allowing the Gael Scoil access to the Athlone Town Stadium facilities. It is also hoped the Club will be in a position to appoint a Community Liaison Officer in the future.
From a Senior team perspective, the fall off of players after U17 and U19 level has prompted Athlone Town to accept an invitation to enter a team in a newly established Connacht Senior League along side Sligo Rovers, Mervue United, Salthill Devon, Castlebar Celtic, Limerick FC and Longford Town.
He also outlined plans to apply for Sports Capital Grants, and hoped for more fundraising, for the development of a new astro pitch and also full size grass pitch, along with the construction of a second stand for the main pitch at Athlone Town Stadium.
It was also noted that the Club have yet to find a main sponsor for 2014, and while not the preferred choice, have still not ruled out the possibility of holding a raffle for the jersey sponsor like last year.
A motion to amend the Club Constitution with regard to reducing the number of Club Trustees to 3 was proposed and passed. Prior to this, the constitution allowed for a minimum of 5 and maximum of 10, however as there appeared to be no sitting Trustees at present, it was agreed to make the amendment.
The eagerly anticipated “Any Other Business” sparked much debate, with the departure of the U19 management team, and the severance of the Clubs affiliation with the Athlone District Schoolboy/Schoolgirl League the major bones of contention.
Relations with the ADSL broke down late in 2013 with the fear that the proposed Athlone Town U15/U16 sides would decimate the ADSL, and contradicting statements regarding related correspondence fueled the fire between Hayden and ADSL Chairman Padraig Quinn. The affiliation of St Francis as opposed to the entire ADSL also raised eyebrows, however Hayden assured those in attendance that Athlone Town continue to have a relationship with all individual clubs, reiterating that the Club would be available and open to reconciliation talks with the ADSL Executive for the good of local football and players.
The issue surrounding the dismissal of U19 manager Michael Collins was high on the agenda from the floor with the Chairman stating that a complete breakdown in trust had lead to his decision to relieve Collins of his duties. He was also quick to point out that an unsuccessful reconciliation meeting had taken place soon after the departure and that the reasons listed on social media couldn’t be further from the truth of the situation. With Collins not in attendance, Hayden stressed that it would not be appropriate to publicise the full reasoning behind the events.
After the proposing and seconding of returning officers, the meeting ended with the committee looking forward to Athlones venture into the Premier Division under the stewardship of Mick Cooke.