After 12 games without a win since taking over again as Athlone Town manager, Roddy Collins finally tasted victory in 2017 when Munster Senior League team Ballincollig were knocked out of the FAI Cup last Saturday evening, August 12.
A potentially tricky away assignment in the first round was overcome in style as two first-half goals laid the foundation of success, with three further scores after the break putting the gloss on the victory.
With Ballincollig unable to host the tie at their home ground, the game was switched to the Cork Institute of Technology pitch which neutralised any advantage the minnows had. Ballincollig are still in pre-season training and without a competitive match.
However, the hosts did show an appetite to create a shock in the early stages, but the sting was taken from them when Athlone opened the scoring after 13 minutes. A home attack broke down allowing Ryan Gaffey to play the ball forward to Dragos Sfrijan on the left wing. A further pass picked out Ethan Nkololo in the middle and the former St Peter’s player made no mistake with a shot to the roof of the net from 12 yards range.
The lead was doubled on 20 minutes. Nkololo was the provider with a cross which fell to Sfrijan, who forced the ball home from close range. The tie could have ended as a contest a minute later, but Sfrijan, with the goal at his mercy, somehow fired over the bar from inside the penalty box.
Ballincollig almost reduced the deficit to the bare minimum after 27 minutes, but Stephen Walsh did well to clear a shot from Gordon O’Meara off the goal line after Igor Labuts had pushed away a right-wing cross. Athlone recovered and Sfrijan had a shot saved, while Gaffey was off target with two goal attempts before the half-time whistle sounded.
In spite of being two goals in arrears, the Cork team did not throw in the towel and on the resumption of play and still looked dangerous when going forward. Darren Murphy and team captain David Sweeney had chances, but Athlone’s passage to the second round was secured with a third goal after 65 minutes.
Gaffey drilled a loose ball into the net after an Nkololo cross was not cleared by the home defence. A fourth goal from Athlone followed after 68 minutes as Rob Spelman raced onto a ball from substitute Claudio Silva to open his Athlone goal account with a cool finish to the net. Spelman had two further chances to add to his goal tally and the scoring was completed in stoppage time when substitute Conor Layng finally hit the target after firing two good chances wide following his introduction as replacement for Enda Curran.
Athlone’s reward in the next round is another trip down south and the unenviable task of facing Premier Division champions elect Cork City at Turners Cross.